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The Nature and Nuance of Climate Change Perceptions 

Kristin Haltinner, Dilshani Sarathchandra, Jennifer Ladino, Tom Ptak, Steve Radil, & Michelle Weist 

funded by the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, University of Idaho


This project, led by Drs. Kristin Haltinner and Dilshani Sarathchandra (Associate Professors of Sociology, University of Idaho) aims to develop a deeper understanding of climate change perceptions, with a focus on segments of the American public who remain skeptical about the phenomenon. Based on interviews and survey data collected from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, this work has shown that climate change skepticism is a core identity shaped by personal experience, trust in institutions (e.g., science, media), and religious beliefs. While it is difficult to change identity dynamics, the researchers have uncovered several areas of common interest among skeptics and believers – a shared concern for air and water pollution, habitat destruction, species extinction, and an interest in investing in renewable energy – which can be capitalized on to develop public policy that is likely to garner wider support. Findings from this project have been disseminated via a series of peer-reviewed publications from 2018 to 2022. Drs. Haltinner and Sarathchandra are also authors of the upcoming book, “Inside the World of Climate Change Skeptics,” to be published in Spring ’23 by the University of Washington Press. 

As a continuation of this project, Drs. Haltinner and Sarathchandra’s new work examines the factors that lead to changing skeptical views about climate change. Their preliminary findings suggest that personal experience with climate or weather disasters, conversation with trusted people, and integration into more open minded religious faiths or social groups can make people more willing to consider and engage with climate science. In the immediate future, the project leads and their collaborators will explore how real or simulated experiences with climate disasters impact the beliefs and decision-making processes of climate change skeptics, using tools such as narrative fiction, documentaries, fictional films, virtual reality, and natural exposure to extreme weather.

WATCH: Researchers Dilshani Sarathchandra and Kristin Haltinner interviewedabout climate change skeptics across the Northwest to find out more about their beliefs. KTVB Idaho Channel 7, July 29, 2022

Team Members:

Kristin Haltinner (Sociology, University of Idaho); Dilshani Sarathchandra (Sociology, University of Idaho); Jennifer Ladino (English, University of Idaho), Matthew Grindal (Criminology, University of Idaho), Steve Radil (Geosciences, US Air Force Academy); Tom Ptak (Geography, Texas State University).

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