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The climate change generation gap

Posted on 21 April 2016 by dana1981

Click here to read the original at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Statler & Waldorf

Muppets Statler and Waldorf represent the dwindling generation of old, white, conservative, American men to which climate denial caters.  Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

A record number of Americans now view global warming as a serious threat and blame human activities as the cause. But there is apparently a generation gap out there when it comes to accepting the scientific evidence. And an ethnic gap, a gender gap, and a gap in political leaning—along with whether one can be considered one of society’s “haves” or “have nots.” So, who are these climate deniers? What is their profile?

A June 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll asked a nationally representative sample of American respondents several questions about their support for climate policies. Specifically, those surveyed were asked whether they would be in favor of government greenhouse gas regulations that increased their monthly energy expenses by $20 per month. Overall, 63 percent of respondents expressed support for the proposed policy, including 51 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Democrats.

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Yup! there are lots of gaps..biggest one at least in this country is brains versus no brains....those who deny can keep on polluting as usual and those who do..will work towards a better tommorrow!....when yer up to yer eyeballs in water..maybe you'll figure it out..this is for the denier..there are and have been deniers throughout our existance..I don't believe in god,others don't believe the holocaust ever happened...wait and see!

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  2. All of those "gaps" can be explained by differences in vested interests. One group has different vested interests than the other regarding climate change mitigation. Therefore, the group with higher vested interests in maintaining status quo of FF burning, tries to rationalise their interests and develops higher perceptive bias against the established scientific facts and laws of physics. The control group will still have some bias (individual or subjective perception of reality is always biased one way or the other) but their bias will be smaller in that particular aspect.

    For example, older generation, say baby boomer whose current remaining lifespan in US averages some 25-35 years, would have lived in the climate that is still preferable, so they feel happy and don't want to change anything. Wheareas the millenial generation (born ~20y ago) whose current remaining lifespan is some 65-75 years, would have not lived their lifespans before the situation changes radically. So, because the first group does not see GW as a threat to themslves, their cognitive bias (because GW is a threat to civilisation) will be larger than that of the second group.

    The vested interest indiced bias exists even among the climate scientists. Those 3% AGW contrarians have been repeately shown to be so biased as to be clearly wrong in some cases. Some individual cases have indicated FF interests have induced the contrarian congnitive biases. For example, the famous case of Wili Soon, who accepted energy industry money without disclosing it. I think I've heard of an attempt to quantify the contrarian FF interest bias but I'm unsure if it was ever published. I would not be surprised if such attempt actually confirms such bias is larger than in a random group of climate scientists.

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  3. Those pesky human beings will continue to argue as they consume natures's bounty and trash the environment but Mother Earth will just continue, as she has done for aeons, to slowly repond to what is happening. The curent climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming that these pests have caused are just blips that will be dealt with after the inevitable demise of civilization.

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  4. denisaf@3

    This threat is about the gaps about climate science knowledge, so your comment is entirely off topic. In case it stands though, I have to respond that your "demise of civilization" is not inevitable. Hardship for future generations, yes. But even with 2+K of GW, there still be plenty of niches left on the planet where millions of homo sapiens would thrive. That optimistic (as opposed to yours) outcome depends on narrowing the subject "generation gap" is CS knowledge. Also, on emergence of proper intergenerational ethics. As I pointed many times in my comments in SkS, AGW problem can be seen not as environmental problem but as social and ethical problem spanning multiple generations.

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  5. Suggested supplemental reading:

    Millennials love clean energy, fear climate change, and don’t vote. This campaign wants to change that. by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Apr 30, 2016

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