How Global Warming Works
Type of site
|Owner||Michael Andrew Ranney (University of California, Berkeley) and The Regents of the University of California|
How Global Warming Works is a website developed by Michael Ranney, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California, United States. The stated goal of the website is to educate the public on the mechanisms of global warming, which was motivated by research Ranney and colleagues conducted on attitudes towards and understanding of global warming.
The motivation for the website came from two studies conducted by Ranney and colleagues. In the first study, they hypothesized that one of the factors explaining why fewer Americans believe in global warming than do people in other industrialized nations is that they do not understand the mechanism of global warming.:2230 To test this hypothesis, they anonymously surveyed 270 park visitors and community college students in San Diego. They reported that none of the 270 participants could explain the basic mechanism of global warming even though 80% thought that global warming was real and that 77% thought that humans contributed to it.:2230
In the second study, they hypothesized that if people understood the mechanism of global warming, their understanding and acceptance of it would increase. Using a 400-word explanation of global warming they tested their hypothesis on students from the University of California, Berkeley and from the University of Texas at Brownsville.
The following summary of the explanation given to the students to read was provided in Scientific American:
Summary: (a) Earth absorbs most of the sunlight it receives; (b) Earth then emits the absorbed light's energy as infrared light; (c) greenhouse gases absorb a lot of the infrared light before it can leave our atmosphere; (d) being absorbed slows the rate at which energy escapes to space; and (e) the slower passage of energy heats up the atmosphere, water, and ground. By increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, humans are increasing the atmosphere’s absorption of infrared light, thereby warming Earth and disrupting global climate patterns.
They reported that by reading a brief description of the mechanism of global warming, participants in the study increased both their understanding and acceptance of global warming. These results motivated them to launch a new website with the aim of providing website visitors with videos of the mechanisms of global warming so that they could educate themselves on how global warming works.
Dan Kahan stated his skepticism about Ranney's approach and this websites effectiveness in educating people about global warming on a large scale to Nova Next. He stated that "I don’t think it makes sense to believe that if you tell people in five-minute lectures about climate science, that it’s going to solve the problem".
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- Ranney, M., A.; Clark, D.; Reinholz, D. L.; Cohen, S. (2012). "Changing Global Warming Beliefs with Scientific Information: Knowledge, Attitudes, and RTMD (Reinforced Theistic Manifest Destiny Theory)" (PDF). N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R.P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
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