By Gary Thomas
U.S and U.K – based researchers have conducted nationwide studies between 2002 and 2010 relating to global warming and climate change, which indicate a significant shift in opinions, images, words, thoughts, and positive or negative feelings of the general public.
One of the studies, "The Rise of Global Warming Skepticism: Exploring Affective Image Associations in the United States Over Time", was conducted by Drs. Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, which was published by the Society for Risk Analysis in their journal Risk Analysis (June 2012 issue). The study was based on four surveys that were conducted in 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2010.
The findings revealed that in 2002, 20%of the Americans related global warming with melting ice, but by 2010 the number decreased to about 10%. Similarly, people’s opinions of "alarmist" disaster images, for instance the end of everything increased between the years 2002 to 2008, and then slightly declined in 2010. The technique used in the survey is a form of free association where people were provided with a word like global warming, and they had to note down the first word that comes to mind, and then had to provide an affective rating (e.g., +3 = a very good thing and -3 = a very bad thing).
The other study "The Psychological Distance of Climate Change", conducted by Dr. Alexa Spence, of The University of Nottingham, U.K., and Dr. Wouter Poortinga and Professor Nick Pidgeon, from Cardiff University, U.K., was also published in Risk Analysis (June 2012 issue). 1,822 people were interviewed for the study between January and March 2010. The researchers studied the connection of psychological dimensions of distance along with social, temporal and geographical distance to climate change. The conclusion derived from the study is that lower psychological distance was connected with higher concern regarding climate change, thus communications relating to climate risk has to emphasize on bringing the problem psychologically closer.