Science likes to deal in facts and natural laws, not superstition or hysteria, so the study also found that the more scientifically literate the person, the more likely they were to be dismissive of opposing beliefs; so smarter people worry about climate change less and likely have less patience talking to activists who just blame some vast right wing conspiracy or the military-industrial complex for a general lack of fear about climate change.
Team America: World Police explains activists' grasp of economics, logic and science.
Okay, so smarter people aren't buying into climate change. Then why aren't more people convinced there is no problem? As Robert Krulwich at NPR speculates, it may be more than data, it may be that deniers are so friggin' annoying. I mean, we get it, they think if they shriek and yell that scientists are all getting rich promoting global warming, it will be convincing. Except they aren't getting rich. Sure, James Hansen makes a lot more money giving speeches about global warming than he gets as an astrophysicist but most climate scientists are not giving speeches or getting rich. They see a problem in the atmosphere and they know enough physics to know more pollution is bad for us.
Obviously some of that remaining doubt regarding climate change is because of political skepticism. The target date for the Kyoto agreement was always picked a little too conveniently by German and French European economic interests for my tastes - you remember the 1990s, right? When everyone was competing to be the best economy and not to see which currency collapses first?
Well, there is good news for environmentalists - America is back at mid-1990s levels of CO2 and the economy is a wreck, just like activists dreamed about. Who wants to hang out with those people? They are just as annoying as deniers.
Krulwich recounted an anecdote about how a disinterested, but otherwise progressive and compassionate person, came to care about the environment; for him the epiphany involved birds. And he's right, we might all have that spark of conviction in us waiting to come out, the problem is there are a lot of conservation-minded people who are tired of (a) being the enemy of environmentalists and (b) having to subscribe to a raft of goofy cultural and political positions to get to be heard regarding one they care about.
I am talking about sportsmen, outdoorsmen, hunters, hikers, enthusiasts. The anti-science hippie fringes of the environmental movement treat people as the enemy and they're engaged in some sort of intellectual spiral rationalizing how humanity is the problem. In doing so, they vilify natural allies. Look at what the Fish&Wildlife Commission has done to alienate and polarize guitar players because of one militant employee's vendetta against Gibson. Guitar players have long been natural stewards of the world's forests, as have American guitar manufacturers, but heavy-handed government is making them out to be the enemy. Where are they going to go when they are suddenly treated like Republicans get treated by biologists?
The real kooks I am talking about will dismiss all skepticism as white male privilege and rich people who don't care, yet that is its own sort of denial - it's also the same reasoning skeptics use about academics chasing funding. Smart people are harder to convince; the ones who buy into a position because an expert tells them they should are sheep, they only have pretensions to being smarter. Skepticism is an American core value - but being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian isn't and that is the distinction that needs to be made. A lot of skeptics are not really waiting to be convinced, they just want to tell Ph.D.s they don't know more about science, which isn't really a great argument.
Framing is not the answer. Some people will never be convinced but it isn't going to appeal to skeptics to note for them that the more socialist a person is, the more likely they are to accept climate change - that's another way that study can be read, if you like your framing, and it is also evident science illiteracy tends to take a back seat to cultural world views when it came to climate change, which does not bode well for the perception of objectivity of scientists.
It is a better strategy to marginalize anti-science hippies who are wrong about 90% of their positions, and allow people who are inclined to care about the environment if they don't have to associate with smelly weirdos to not have to associate with smelly weirdos in order to go hiking.
If you went with your grandfather for a hike, you probably want to be able to do it with your grandkids also. It doesn't have to mean shutting down the economy or vomiting taxpayer money at pet projects that billionaire friends of the president are invested in but it does mean recognizing some basic physics and spending some money on basic research that goes beyond ridiculous windmills and terrible solar cells.
Skeptics contending we don't need to start worrying now because magical future science will cure it before it becomes a problem also need to realize that the very people they distrust politically and don't want to fund are the people they are relying on to save the world.