Fact-Checking Isn’t Enough to Counter Climate Denial, New Study Concludes
It’ll take more than a good fact check to shift the views of the more than one-quarter of Canadians who don’t believe climate change is real and caused by the human activity, according to a report released late last month by the Digital Democracy Project, a joint initiative of the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.
Consistent with past research, the study “found that having correct information about climate change didn’t influence support for different types of climate mitigation policy,” National Observer reports. “For example, support for the carbon tax was nearly the same among participants who received the correct information (35%) than among those who didn’t (36%).”
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“What this suggests, at the very least, is that correct information about facts and related policies plays a limited role in determining one’s support or opposition to those policies,” the report concluded.
“People bring to any kind of information that is being presented to them by supposedly objective experts—whether it’s journalists, or professors doing a survey—any number, any amount, of doubts and an ability to rehearse arguments against their side or in favour of their side,” said University of Toronto political scientist Peter Loewen, who led the study’s survey analysis team.
“So it’s possible what we are seeing here is people are not accepting an update on the first case, which gives us a sense as researchers of how much work needs to be done and may give journalists a sense of how much work needs to be done on facts.”
The report picked up a familiar partisan divide on the scientific reality of the climate crisis: it found 45% of Conservative Party supporters identifying themselves as climate “skeptics”, compared to 22% of Liberal supporters and 16% of New Democrats. “The authors found most Canadians believe the climate is changing, but a significant proportion don’t agree with the scientific consensus on what’s causing it,” National Observer reports.
While 73% of respondents agreed with the statement that “the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels,” 27% believed there’s “no solid evidence that the Earth is getting warmer,” or that the planet is warming “mostly because of natural patterns in the Earth’s environment.”