CICS hosts workshop on “Global Warming: The Psychology of Long Term Risk
The Cooperative Institute for Climate Science at Princeton University hosted a workshop on “Global Warming: The Psychology of Long Term Risk” on November 12, 2004 at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The workshop was chaired by CICS Fellow Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School.
The workshop brought together eleven experts in cognitive psychology, social psychology, economics, and public opinion and survey research to present papers on how Americans incorporate information about climate change, and how their views and attitudes compare to those held by Europeans and others. Also discussed was the question of which means of communicating information about climate change are effective and which are not. In a novel feature, the workshop also brought in four climate science experts as discussants to comment on the psychology presentations, leading to lively discussions of long term risk and risk communication. The workshop attracted an audience of about thirty participants, including philosophers, ethicists, and economists, in addition to climate scientists and ecologists. Princeton University participants came from the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geosciences, and the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program and also included a half-dozen graduate students from the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Program. A number of participants from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory were also in attendance.
There is a great demand for information about climate change from scientists. Government, media, educational institutions and the general public are some of the audiences that scientists seek to satisfy. But there have been few studies of how information about climate change is absorbed and interpreted by the public, particularly with regard to how the risk of climate change is evaluated by the public. Landmark studies over the past 25 years have revolutionized understanding of the psychology of risk, yet the climate science community has thus far not incorporated these. Proceedings of the workshop will be published as a special issue.