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  • Divided America: Global warming polarizes more than abortion

    Associated Press - 08/15/2016

    Recall the 20th century, with its race to the moon, advances in medicine and information technology, and “this incredibly strong belief in the promise of science,” says Matthew Nisbet, a communications professor at Northeastern University.

    People in the 1960s “had faith in science, had hope in science. Most people thought science was responsible for improving their daily lives,” says Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences. So some scientists look back at that era with nostalgia, she says.

    That’s because now, Nisbet says, “we see partisan polarization or ideological polarization” and the implications of science “are intuitively recognized as threatening to one side and their world view.”

    Yale psychology and law professor Dan Kahan argues, however, that public divides on science have existed for decades. He notes that some issues that formerly divided us no longer do, such as the dangers of cigarettes, after a public health campaign eroded the social acceptability of smoking.

    The split with science is most visible and strident when it comes to climate change because the nature of the global problem requires communal joint action, and “for conservatives that’s especially difficult to accept,” Nisbet says.

    Climate change is more about tribalism, or who we identify with politically and socially, Nisbet and other experts say. Liberals believe in global warming, conservatives don’t.

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