Climate change deniers have a critical thinking problem

Brittany A. Roston - Feb 6, 2018
Climate change deniers have a critical thinking problem

A newly published study looks at the common myths surrounding climate change and concludes that deniers have a critical thinking problem. Common myths denying the existence of a warming issue are based on fallacious reasoning, fueling misinformation and introducing an element of confusion or skepticism into populations of individuals who may otherwise support measures to deal with the problem.

We’ve all heard erroneous statements regarding climate change. Any atypically cool summer day or warm winter night will have someone remarking so much for climate change!, for example. Deniers of all varieties have introduced a variety of misinformation on the topic; this study looked at 42 of the most common among them, finding that all of them exhibit “fallacious reasoning and fail to refute” the accepted scientific consensus on the issue.

Thanks to the Internet and social media specifically, it’s easier than ever for someone to spread misinformation about climate change. Facebook and similar sites are full of accounts, images, and copypasta that mock scientists, denounce climate change, and actively spread false info about it. This is a “societal issue of growing concern,” the researchers say, pointing out that climate change has been particularly affected by this mass of false info.

The researchers explain:

Content analysis of conservative think-tank articles found that arguments casting doubt on climate science are increasing relative to policy arguments. Climate misinformation impacts public perceptions about climate change in various ways. It decreases acceptance of climate change and lowers confidence about people’s understanding. Climate misinformation also disproportionately influences conservatives, contributing to growing polarization over recent decades.

The potential solution is developing a public “resistance to persuasion” regarding these misinformation sources, the study says. To help get us to this point, the researchers looked at the logical structure of climate change deniers’ arguments rather than the arguments themselves. Merely pointing out factual errors in the arguments isn’t enough to fully combat the problem.

By exposing the fallacy behind a misinformation claim, someone presented with that claim may more easily accept the actual fact about the topic. This is called an inoculation against myths, and it may be far more effective than merely arguing that a particular claim is wrong and offering a different fact in its place. The study breaks down the types of fallacies found in these arguments and could be a handy reference guide on the matter.

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