TRUST IN SCIENTISTS

EFFORTS TO DISCREDIT SCIENTISTS

People who are skeptical about global warming have cited two 2009 controversies to question the credibility of scientists who contributed to IPCC reports: the so-called “Climategate” controversy and report errors found in the fourth IPCC assessment report.

However, public trust in scientists studying the environment has not changed meaningfully over the years. In 2006, 72% of Americans had at least moderate trust in what scientists said about the environment. In 2020, that number was 74%. This level of trust in scientists has been high and has not wavered after the 2009 controversies broke.


Question wording can be found here.

Climategate involved a hack into the computer system of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia: more than 1,000 emails and many other documents were made public. Some observers alleged that the leak showed climate scientists conspiring to manipulate data for the IPCC’s report. Several investigations, including by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found no substantiation for those claims and said the materials did not undermine the IPCC’s findings that anthropogenic global warming, global warming caused by humans, is happening.(1)

In December 2009, accounts of errors in the fourth assessment report of the IPCC emerged.  The report mistakenly projected the date for Himalayan glacial melting to be 2035 instead of 2050. (2)

Did these two widely reported events dampen public confidence in the scientific community?

A June 2010 survey assessed whether the public knew details of these events and whether people believed that the events had impacted public confidence in scientists. About one-third of Americans remembered hearing or reading something about Climategate, yet 71% of those people don’t remember any details about the emails. And one in four remembered hearing or reading something about mistakes in the IPCC report, yet 81% said they didn’t recall any details.


Question wording can be found here.


Question wording can be found here.


Question wording can be found here.


Question wording can be found here.

Only a small portion of Americans said Climategate showed that climate scientists should not be trusted (9%), or stated that IPCC reports should not be trusted (13%).


Question wording can be found here.


Question wording can be found here.

SCIENTISTS’ MOTIVATIONS

Skeptics have also questioned the motives of natural scientists who draw conclusions about climate change. If natural scientists claim that global warming will lead to dire consequences, are they simply in on a hoax to garner more research funding? Or if scientists refute those findings, are they simply doing so under the influence of the oil and gas industries?

In June 2012, Americans had more confidence in the scientists whose research documented the existence of anthropogenic climate change than in those who did not take that view. Just over half of the nation believed that conclusions are based on scientific evidence when scientists say that global warming has been happening and has been human-caused. Only 35% thought that scientists had reached those conclusions dishonestly, for economic or political reasons.

People have been less likely to see scientific soundness in the findings of scientists who say global warming is not happening or not human-caused. Only 44% of Americans thought that those scientists who were skeptics had based their conclusions on scientific evidence, whereas 49% thought that the motivation was economic or political.


Question wording can be found here.


Question wording can be found here.

References

  1. No Author. (n.d.). Myths vs. Facts: Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/myths-facts.html
  2. No Author. (n.d.). Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/petitions.html

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