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Study finds climate change reporting can momentarily change minds

Story at a glance


  • Researchers conducted an online study across four waves with 2,898 participants in the Fall of 2020.

  • During the first wave, participants read reports that reflected scientific consensus on issues involving climate change before moving on to the second and third waves where they read either a scientific article with counter points, an opinion article or a piece unrelated to the topic. 

  • After each wave, researchers asked participants whether they believed humans caused climate change, if the government should act through policy changes and how they viewed renewable energy. 

Accurate climate change reporting has the power to change minds if only for a moment, a new experimental study suggests.  

“It is not the case that the American public does not respond to scientifically informed reporting when they are exposed to it,” said Thomas Wood, associate professor of political science at the Ohio State University, before adding that even accurate reporting “recedes from people’s frame of reference very quickly.” 

Gains were also made regardless of political identity as the study demonstrated both Democrats and Republicans could be positively persuaded by accurate reporting.  

Wood and fellow researchers conducted an online study across four waves with 2,898 participants in the fall of 2020.   

During the first wave, participants read reports that reflected scientific consensus on issues involving climate change before moving on to the second and third waves, where they read either a scientific article with counter points, an opinion article or a piece unrelated to the top.  

After each wave, researchers asked participants whether they believed humans caused climate change, if the government should act through policy changes and how they viewed renewable energy.  

“Not only did science reporting change people’s factual understanding, it also moved their political preferences,” Wood continued. “It made them think that climate change was a pressing government concern that government should do more about.” 

President Biden committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2030 last year, months after rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. 


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Yet the study showed that positive changes in opinion faded and suggested opinion articles skeptical of climate consensus negated progress in some cases.  

“What we found suggests that people need to hear the same accurate messages about climate change again and again. If they only hear it once, it recedes very quickly,” Wood said. 

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Published on Jun. 22, 2022



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