Perceptions about climate change may depend more on cultural dispositions than scientific knowledge. This analysis was the conclusion presented by Professor Dan M. Kahan of Yale Law School at a recent risk regulation seminar organized by the Penn Program on Regulation.
Kahan and his co-authors find instead a strong correlation between science literacy and cultural polarization. As people become more science literate, those initially skeptical of environmental risks grow less concerned, while those initially concerned with environmental risks grow more concerned. Kahan claims that science literacy does not shift people’s belief towards the current scientific consensus; it simply shifts their beliefs more strongly in line with their cultural predispositions.
Kahan argues that addressing the cultural values associated with climate change should be factored into any effort at risk communication.