In the US, the science of climate change is among the topics where public opinion is generally controlled by which political wing a person identifies with. Of course, human beings are a varied lot, and this dividing line is not without exceptions—some conservatives accept the conclusions of climate science, some liberals reject them.
If you’re an optimistic kind of person, you might hope that shows we could potentially overcome these political barriers and converge on a shared reality.
A common response is the expectation that people who are not convinced climate change is real simply don’t know about the extensive evidence and research.
But this ignores the source of the division in public opinion. People are exceptionally talented at selectively noting and crediting information that reinforces their position while waving the rest aside. When this defense system is fully operational, information is largely just cannon fodder.
It gets even worse when you look to see if, perhaps, people who are generally knowledgeable about science or good with numbers will buck this trend. Research has shown that those who should be the best-equipped to recognize what the science is saying are actually the most polarized on climate change.
It seems we just put our cognitive skills to work running a stronger defense system.
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