The American public’s climate change risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behavior are particularly important as the United States alone produces approximately 20% of global carbon emissions. Although China is now considered to be the world’s largest overall emitter of carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas), the United States contributes far more emissions per capita. With only 5% of the global population, the United States emits 19.10 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, compared to 4.85 tons in China and 1.18 tons in India.
Cultural cognition of scientific consensus
Dan M. Kahan
Received 13 February 2010; final version received 23 July 2010
Journal of Risk Research
Why do members of the public disagree – sharply and persistently – about facts
on which expert scientists largely agree? We designed a study to test a distinctive
explanation: the cultural cognition of scientific consensus. The ‘cultural cognition
of risk’ refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are
congenial to their values. The study presents both correlational and experimental
evidence confirming that cultural cognition shapes individuals’ beliefs about the
existence of scientific consensus, and the process by which they form such beliefs,
relating to climate change, the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the effect of
permitting concealed possession of handguns. The implications of this dynamic
for science communication and public policy-making are discussed.