Dissemination of scientific knowledge regarding climate change

Abstract: Knowledge of climate change is provided by scientists. The issue is characterized by great complexity, as well as by scientific uncertainty. Since the knowledge is disseminated to society by others than the scientists, to be confident in one´s own knowledge in these circumstances is even more difficult. In Study I knowledge and confidence in one´s own knowledge was studied in a survey among four groups in society: experts, politicians, journalists and laypersons. The study was prompted by earlier reports both on low knowledge levels among laypersons and on information biases from journalists. The results revealed descending knowledge levels from experts, to journalists, to politicians and to laypersons. The confidence levels showed a similar pattern. However, knowledge and confidence were unequally distributed between domains. Both knowledge and confidence levels were higher for causes of, than state of and consequences of climate change. In addition, all groups had less knowledge of health consequences as compared to weather and sea/glacier consequences. The findings suggest that knowledge differences between groups are due to a filter effect in the information process. Study II tested to what extent scientific knowledge of various domains is a determinant of cognitive and affective risk judgements among laypersons. Subgroups divided by gender, parenthood, education, age and domestic urbanisation level were analyzed. The results revealed that knowledge, both of health consequences and of causes of climate change, was positively related to cognitive and affective risk judgements. Gender influenced affective judgements as women were more worried than men. Taken together, the two studies show that scientific knowledge about climate change seems to be disseminated in an unbiased manner in society and that people have adequate confidence in relation to their knowledge. Moreover, the results support the claim that both knowledge and confidence levels will increase when people learn more about climate change. Risk awareness can be raised by increased knowledge of health consequences and of causes of climate change.

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