COLUMN: Climate Change: Can people change their minds?
Almost all scientists agree that global warming is taking place and that human activity is a main cause. But the American people are divided. There are “Six Americas” when it comes to attitudes and worries about global warming, as we discussed yesterday and Monday. We certainly don’t have a social consensus now, but is one possible?
Moving from Six Americas to One America would require many people to change their minds about global warming. This is possible, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, because many people are not certain about their opinions.
The Yale group asked respondents to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with this statement: “I could easily change my mind about global warming.” Of course, not many people at the two extremes agreed. Only 5% of The Alarmed somewhat or strongly agreed that they could easily change their minds. Only 11% of The Dismissive said the same. But there are a lot of people in the other four categories who are open to changing their opinions.
Over a third of The Concerned agreed that they could easily change their minds. Over half of The Cautious (58%) similarly agreed. The vast majority of The Disengaged (73%) said they could easily change their minds. And even three of ten of The Doubtful (29%) said they could do the same.
What would it take for people to make up their minds? More information, and a lot of it, according to the Yale analysts. The groups with the most uncertainty are the most likely to say they need more information about global warming before making up their minds. But even members of the two extreme groups say they could use more information. Over a third of The Concerned say so, as do 17% of The Dismissive.
So, yes, people just might change their minds about global warming.
Could you easily change your mind about global warming?
Do you feel you need more information before making up your mind?
How optimistic are you that we will reach a social consensus?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.