The effect of information provision on public consensus about climate change

Tatyana Deryugina, Olga Shurchkov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite over 20 years of research and scientific consensus on the topic, climate change continues to be a politically polarizing issue. We conducted a survey experiment to test whether providing the public with information on the exact extent of scientific agreement about the occurrence and causes of climate change affects respondents' own beliefs and bridges the divide between conservatives and liberals. First, we show that the public significantly underestimated the extent of the scientific consensus. We then find that those given concrete information about scientists' views were more likely to report believing that climate change was already underway and that it was caused by humans. However, their beliefs about the necessity of making policy decisions and their willingness to donate money to combat climate change were not affected. Information provision affected liberals, moderates, and conservatives similarly, implying that the gap in beliefs between liberals and conservatives is not likely to be bridged by information treatments similar to the one we study. Finally, we conducted a 6-month follow-up with respondents to see if the treatment effect persisted; the results were statistically inconclusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0151469
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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