Concern over climate change is cooling with the public. What is an alarmist to do? Some researchers have a suggestion. A letter in the journal Climatic Change , titled “A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change,” suggests promoting global-warming related health scares to engage the public.
The paper abstract reads:
Communication researchers and practitioners have suggested that framing climate change in terms of public health and/or national security may make climate change more personally relevant and emotionally engaging to segments of the public who are currently disengaged or even dismissive of the issue. To evaluate these assumptions, using a nationally representative online survey of U.S. residents (N = 1,127) conducted in December, 2010, we randomly assigned six previously identified audience segments on climate change to one of three experimental conditions. Subjects were asked to read uniquely framed news articles about climate change emphasizing either the risks to the environment, public health, or national security and the benefits of mitigation and adaptation-related actions. Results show that across audience segments, the public health focus was the most likely to elicit emotional reactions consistent with support for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Findings also indicated that the national security frame may possibly boomerang among audience segments already doubtful or dismissive of the issue, eliciting unintended feelings of anger. (See full paper here and some commentary on it here.)
Notice the goal of the paper is to elicit emotions rather than rational thinking. The researchers studied the best way to shape global warming propaganda to produce alarmist concern, in other words, how to best manipulate your thinking.
If the propagandists take the advice of the study, we will see more global warming health scare stories in the future. It’s all about perception rather than science. And remember, there is much money, and many academic and bureaucratic careers resting on your emotional perception of the issue.