Despite allegations that they are tantamount to “flat earthers,” a study published Sunday in the Nature Climate Change journal indicates that climate change skeptics actually tend to have a slightly higher level of general scientific knowledge than those who believe in the theory.
The study drew the conclusion after asking 1,540 representative Americans a total of 22 questions, according to Fox News.
Some of the questions included:
“Electrons are smaller than atoms — true or false?”
“How long does it take the Earth to go around the Sun? One day, one month, or one year?”
“Lasers work by focusing sound waves — true or false?”
“As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased,” the paper, funded by the National Science Foundation, notes.
Though, to be fair, it was a close call. Skeptics answered an average of 57% questions correctly, while those who indicated more concern for the effects of global warming answered an average of 56% correctly.
The lead author of the study, Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan, cautioned in an interview with Fox that the results are not to be used as evidence for or against climate change. Rather, they provide an interesting insight into the polarizing impact of the debate, and put to rest the allegation that those who do not believe in global warming are simply ignorant of science.
Both “sides,” he added, have proceeded to argue that the study gives weight to their respective belief.
A spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists remarked: “Kahan’s research is so interesting…Over the last few years, the policy issues surrounding climate change have become increasingly politicized, and that’s bleeding over into people’s perceptions of climate science.”
But Dr. Richard Lindzen, an MIT professor of atmospheric sciences who signed the “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” letter in January, said the conclusion that skeptics know as just as much or more about science surprised him “not at all.”
“MIT alumni are among my most receptive audiences,” he added.