Research shows that many adults interpret scientific findings within a framework of preexisting values and beliefs.


Stevenson: “Among adults, our risk perceptions of climate change really have very little to do with how much we understand science and has much more to do with who we are.”

That’s Kathryn Stevenson, a researcher at North Carolina State University. She says that when someone denies that global warming is real, even the most convincing climate science can make them more entrenched in their views.

Stevenson: “They’re just really good at taking these facts and filing them away in ways that reinforce their world views. The implication is that we can’t just teach people, we can’t just throw the science at them. It’s not going to be convincing enough. We have to appeal to people’s values and all of that.”

However, most adolescents have not yet formed strong ideological views, so they tend to respond differently when presented with the science of climate change.

Stevenson: “The effect of world views seems to go away with kids instead of become stronger as knowledge increases.”

Stevenson says that is good news for educators.

Stevenson: “So climate change education the way we’re doing it, which is more science based with kids, that’s probably going to be effective.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Overcoming skepticism with education: The interacting impacts of climate literacy on perceived risk of climate change among adolescents
Role of significant life experiences in building environmental knowledge and behavior among middle school students

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...