Climate Haters Gotta Hate

I’ve had on my spindle for a month now this article by the WaPo’s Chris Mooney (author of the egregious Republican War on Science) about how the climate change debate is . . . polarized! Apparently Mooney discovered that climate change alarmists and climate “skeptics” really don’t like each other. Stop the presses! Clearly with Mooney we are in the presence of no ordinary mind.

On the surface the story seems to suggest a rough equivalence between the two sides, as most such “polarization” narratives go these days. But read carefully even Mooney can’t conceal one damning result of the survey on which the story is based—namely that the climate alarmists are a much more cohesive “in-group” and angrier at their opponents:

Based upon these questions, the research found that those whom the study calls “believers” — a label they won’t like — actually showed higher levels of group cohesion, self identification, sense of collective effectiveness, and “especially anger toward the opposing group and commitment to socio-political action.”

“Anger” and “commitment to socio-political action” sounds like the job description of liberalism, and reason enough to be a climate skeptic.   Anyway, if you check out the underlying NatureClimateChange article on which this is based, be sure to scroll down in Table 1 and notice that “believers” (the 4.10 score in the right-hand column) score as significantly more angry toward skeptics than skeptics are toward alarmist “believers.” (Isn’t “believers” an ironically accurate term?  Nice to see it used in a “mainstream” science journal.)  Since the complete article is behind a paywall, here’s a screen cap of the relevant portion of Table 1:

Anger copyThis probably helps explain the witch-hunting fervor of people like Rep. Grijalva. Climate haters gotta hate.

Maybe climate skeptics are just happier people? I suspect that’s true. But it also may be the case that climate skeptics are also better informed about climate science:

Are global warming skeptics simply ignorant about climate science?

Not so, says a forthcoming paper in the journal Advances in Political Psychologyby Yale Professor Dan Kahan. He finds that skeptics score about the same (in fact slightly better) on climate science questions.

The study asked 2,000 respondents nine questions about where they thought scientists stand on climate science.

On average, skeptics got about 4.5 questions correct, whereas manmade warming believers got about 4 questions right.

One question, for instance, asked if scientists believe that warming would “increase the risk of skin cancer.” Skeptics were more likely than believers to know that is false.

Skeptics were also more likely to correctly say that if the North Pole icecap melted, global sea levels would not rise. One can test this with a glass of water and an ice cube – the water level will not change after the ice melts. Antarctic ice melting, however, would increase sea levels because much of it rests on land.

Liberals were more likely to correctly answer questions like: “What gas do most scientists believe causes temperatures to rise?” The correct answer is carbon dioxide.

The study comes on the heels of a 2012 study that found that global warming skeptics know just as much about science; the new study specifically quizzed people on climate science.