Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community

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Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 350 words

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Abstract :

To access, purchase, authenticate, or subscribe to the full-text of this article, please visit this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.02.013 Byline: Stephan Lewandowsky [stephan.lewandowsky@bristol.ac.uk] (a,b,*), Naomi Oreskes (c), James S. Risbey (d), Ben R. Newell (e), Michael Smithson (f) Keywords Climate change; Global warming "hiatus"; Scientific norms; Scientific assessment; Climate change denial Highlights * Appeals to scientific uncertainty are often used to forestall action on climate change. * We examine the seepage of this contrarian discourse into the scientific community. * We highlight psychological reasons for scientists' susceptibility to seepage. * We use the global warming "hiatus" as an example of the consequences of seepage. * We offer ways in which the scientific community can detect and avoid such seepage. Abstract Vested interests and political agents have long opposed political or regulatory action in response to climate change by appealing to scientific uncertainty. Here we examine the effect of such contrarian talking points on the scientific community itself. We show that although scientists are trained in dealing with uncertainty, there are several psychological reasons why scientists may nevertheless be susceptible to uncertainty-based argumentation, even when scientists recognize those arguments as false and are actively rebutting them. Specifically, we show that prolonged stereotype threat, pluralistic ignorance, and a form of projection (the third-person effect) may cause scientists to take positions that they would be less likely to take in the absence of outspoken public opposition. We illustrate the consequences of seepage from public debate into the scientific process with a case study involving the interpretation of temperature trends from the last 15 years. We offer ways in which the scientific community can detect and avoid such inadvertent seepage. Author Affiliation: (a) University of Bristol, United Kingdom (b) University of Western Australia, Australia (c) Harvard University, United States (d) CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia (e) University of New South Wales, Australia (f) Australian National University, Australia * Corresponding author at: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44 74401 89544. Article History: Received 11 November 2014; Revised 21 February 2015; Accepted 22 February 2015

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A518034095