Skeptics Best Warmers In Global Warming Quiz

Dan Kahan, Yale law professor and communications researcher, posted a paper in June, 2014, that reported on his work to try to remove bias when testing a subject’s knowledge. That paper can be reviewed by clicking here.

globalwarming credibilityimagesFrom reports on Fox News, Kahan submitted the paper and it will be published by Advances in Political Psychology. The paper’s intention was to determine what the general population thinks they know about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Kahan used a quiz containing 9 questions. Something in the range of 2000 people were randomly chosen to take the quiz. The numbers of skeptic and warmers were about equal in number. He computed each testee’s answers. He then compared the skeptics and warmers answers for each of the nine questions. The results according to a report found that the skeptics answered more questions correctly than did the warmers.   The difference was small, with the skeptics average scoring 4.5 correct versus the warmers that got “about 4” correct.

The questions were

1) What gas do most scientist believe causes temperatures in the atmosphere to rise?

—-Ans:   hydrogen, helium, carbon dioxide, radon

2) Climate scientists believe that the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide associated with the burning of fossil fuels will reduce photosynthesis by plants.

—-Ans:   True   or False

 3) Climate scientists believe that human-caused global warming will increase the risk of skin cancer in human beings?

—-Ans:   True or False

 4) Climate scientists believe that human-caused global warming will result in flooding of many costal regions.

—Ans:   True or False

5) Climate scientists believe that if the North Pole icecap melted as a result of human-caused global warming, global sea levels would rise.

—Ans:     True or False

 6) Climate scientists believe that human-caused global warming has increased the number, and severity of hurricanes around the world in recent decades.

—Ans:   True or False

 7) Climate scientists believe that nuclear power generation contributes to global warming

—Ans:   True or False

 8) Climate scientists believe that there will be positive as well as negative effects from human-caused global warming.

—Ans:   True or False

9) Climate scientists believe that globally averaged surface air temperatures were higher for the first decade of the twenty-first century (2000-2009) than for the last decade of the twentieth century (1990-1999)

—Ans:   True or False

The answers to the questions, according to Kahan, are underlined.

On question 1, Kahan has the wrong answer. Water vapor is the major “greenhouse” gas and it is not listed. If I read the charts representing the answers given, the skeptics got this one “right” nearly as frequently as the warmers. The fact that most of the skeptics answered “carbon dioxide” must resonate as a communications victory for the warmers.

Over all it is somewhat leading to have 8 of the questions begin: “Climate scientists believe”……    Less leading would probably be: The theory of man-made global warming”…….  However, in part, Kahan was testing to see if true believers would answer “true” to anything that Climate scientists were reputed to believe. And to separate out the skeptics that would deny anything the Climate scientists said.

Professor Kahan is not himself neutral regarding AGW. He believes in the theory and it appears that his associates are in the warmer’s camp as well (Lewandowsky, Mooney and Cook for example).

He makes much of the fact that a large number of Americans do not believe in AGW. And that their knowledge is often subverted in favor of their biases. He believes that despite all the proper information having been transmitted via the media, the skeptics refuse to accept the truth. And he is hoping his test work will find ways to improve the transmission of the “true science” so that skeptics will be converted.

This position is illustrated by the following quote from his paper: “Members of the public do not need the climate-science comprehension level of even a well-educated high school student, much less that of a climate scientist, to participate meaningfully in democratic deliberations on climate change. They only need to be able to recognize what the best available scientific evidence signifies as a practical matter: that human-cased global warming is initiating a series of very significant dynamics— melting ice, rising sea levels, flooding; heightened risk of serious diseases; more intense hurricanes and other extreme weather events—that put us in danger. If they have that much, they can use their expertise to select and oversee representatives who have the requisite forms of knowledge and the requisite values to make decisions involving even more complex forms of information. And that is exactly the level of comprehension, the OCSI results suggest that ordinary members of the public already have.” (The italics were his. The OCSI is an acronym for Ordinary Climate Science Intelligence.)

I can imagine his surprise when the skeptics bested the warmers even if it was only by a little bit.   This is not the first time he has been surprised.   In an earlier test program he chose one comparison to be that of liberals versus Tea Party members regarding science comprehension. And the Tea Party members were convincingly superior.   Discussing the results he said:

“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv–& I don’t watch Fox News very often—and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).”

You can see the posting on this test by clicking here.

Communications with the general public are almost entirely pro man-made global warming. Some major newspapers have banned any contrary opinion.   So if the warmers cannot convince the general population,  I believe it is because of the common sense of that very population.   They have been bombarded with terrible things that were going to happen if they did not get religion and join in the crusade to ban the use of fossil fuels. Every year goes by and things that were suppose to happen, haven’t.  People begin to tune-out the noise being made by the media. And as long as the discussion is strictly one sided, as it is now and the shrill tone and catastrophic predictions continue, people will continue to tune these folks out.





3 responses to “Skeptics Best Warmers In Global Warming Quiz

  1. As Dr. Dan Kahan noted, this survey has nothing to do with whether or not anthropogenic climate warming is a fact. His interest – the reason he created the survey you reference and link to – is to better understand why deniers don’t accept the science of climate change. It’s ironic that deniers have jumped on this study as some sort of “proof” of something.
    A group of non-scientists was asked a number of questions. On some of those questions, people who don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change scored very slightly higher than those who do believe in anthropogenic climate change. The way the questions are worded, it’s hard to know whether people actually knew the correct answers, or were simply answering in accordance with their beliefs. The questions could easily have been manipulated to produce a greater number of correct answers for either group. The “winning” side scored, on average, less than one half a question better than the “losing” side. A few subtle changes of wording could swing the outcome the other way.
    Fox News and other climate change deniers have jumped on this survey because a) they don’t understand what Kahan was getting at, and b) they have nothing else to jump on, seeing as 90-some percent of climate scientists, and virtually All climate scientists not in the pay of Big Oil, Big Timber and Big Coal, agree climate change is real, is here, and is at least partly driven by human activity.
    Interested readers should follow your link to Kahan’s article, read it in it’s entirety, and read Kahan’s other work in this area.
    And here’s an exercise cbdakota and readers might find interesting. Enter your own search terms with the goal of determining whether or not the world’s glaciers are shrinking, growing or remaining constant year to year. Dig a little, and you can find plenty of actual photographic evidence and eye witness accounts of in-the-field residents (regularly people) and scientists regarding the overall trend regarding glacier size. Then square the results you discover with whatever news source you’re accepting regarding climate change.

    • Barbra and Jack Donachy
      Did you actually read my posting? Did I not reiterate what Dan Kahan said was his reason for preparing the test? Did I not note that Kahan made an effort in this test to detect people following a bias? I read the whole report, did you?

      Regarding your view of the test itself. You say that you could go into the test and manipulate it to get the answer you want—-Skeptics Don’t Know Anything. But I don’t think Kahan thinks like you do. While he has his own personal bias, he was trying to learn if the testee had a bias.

      Do I think that Kahan got answers he did not expect? Of course I do. His premise is that Skeptics do not understand climate science. Perhaps that is so, but it seems that they understand it as well or better than the other group. And this in spite of the barrage by the media of, in his words, “the best available scientific evidence”.

      Oh my! Your paragraph about Fox and the big money people, etc. makes me conclude you read little but desmog blog, and similar stuff. Glaciers are your best shot? Not worth my time discussing this with you.

      I read the Mother Jones posting by Chris Mooney “Conservatives Don’t Deny Climate Science Because They’re Ignorant. They Deny It Because of Who They Are. Mooney gives his take on Kahan’s work. I try to read both sides of theses issues. You should try that.

  2. Tom @ The Sustainabilitist

    I for one don’t find the outcome too surprising. It seems that the questions were framed in such a way so that the warmers would be more inclined to answer yes on most questions, and the skeptics no on most questions. As such, I don’t find this study (if it is one) to be very enlightening. Had the questions been framed differently, the outcome might have been entirely different.

    However, it’s as Richard Feynman said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool”. There is great benefit in remaining skeptics of even our own beliefs, but it would be to our detriment to deny the reality given an abundance of corroborating evidence.

    P.S – cbdakota, I came across a page pertaining to the influence of money on eye care, which I think you would enjoy. Take it with a grain of salt though – It’s very easy to read through it without questioning the validity of the claims being made:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s