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The Psychology of Global Warming

Improving the Fit between the Science and the Message

Ben R. Newell and Andrew J. Pitman

The evidence in support of global warming and the lack of significant published evidence to the contrary provides an extraordinarily strong foundation for the scientif ic community's call for action on greenhouse gas emissions. However, public conviction about the threat posed by global warming appears to be on the decline. What can the scientific community do to communicate the message that global warming requires urgent action now, most likely via deep cuts in emissions? A clear impediment to this goal is that the issues are complex and the outcomes uncertain. As a step towards achieving this goal, the authors review some psychological phenomena that illuminate how humans make judgments and decisions when faced with complex uncertain problems. The authors suggest that an awareness of this research, combined with an indication of how lessons from it can be applied to the particular communication issues faced by climate scientists, could help in ensuring that the message of global warming is heard and heeded.

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