Lecturer discusses global climate change awareness

Michael Ranney, professor at University of California, Berkeley, presents about how climate change acceptance can be increased through education at Physics' Neff Lecture Series September 12, 2017. (Photo by Regan Tokos | Collegian Media Group)

How public acceptance of climate change increases after viewing scientific information was the topic of the latest Neff Lecture given by Michael Ranney, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, in Forum Hall Tuesday.

Ranney’s research explores the public’s understanding of global climate change and ways to expand knowledge of this phenomenon to more people.

“The whole world doesn’t want climate change to be true, but climate scientists are banding together saying this is true — this should tell people something,” Ranney said. “The good news, though, is that people are not in stasis. People and societies can learn to accept new information with data.”

Ranney and his colleagues have been able to support their hypothesis that the acceptance of global climate change can increase, no matter the person, with the presence of data. This data comes in the form of 90-second videos, 400-word summaries and diagrams showing how Miami could be underwater with just a one-degree rise in temperature.

“If it takes 30 years for global warming to be widely accepted, global warming is more dangerous than I first feared,” Ranney said. “In 30 years, it should be very apparent global warming is real.”

Aida Farough, assistant professor of geology, said as a scientist, she has no doubt climate change is real and is happening in real time.

“I believe the skeptics of climate change have not received proper education in science, or there is some benefit [for them], financially or otherwise, in denying climate change,” Farough said.

Ranney’s website, HowGlobalWarmingWorks.org, explains the mechanisms of global warming with graphs, short videos and data in multiple languages to reach a large audience.

“We give statistics to people to help them understand the situation,” Ranney said. “If your body goes up six degrees, it would be a problem, so if our earth’s temperature goes up six degrees, how is it any different?”

Aaron Gallaway, sophomore in statistics and business administration, said Ranney helped him understand global warming more, and he said he also better understands how he can help produce change in the Earth’s climate.

“We need to try to be more connected with politics,” Gallaway said. “Attempting contact with politicians like senators could help in spreading the information about global climate change and how important it is.”

Members of the American public can help slow the progress of global climate change by having fewer children, buying an environment-friendly car, expressing their concerns to representatives and voting for candidates that promise to fight global warming.

The physics department hosted Ranney’s lecture as part of the Neff Lecture Series, supported by an endowment from K-State alumnus James R. Neff in honor of his parents. The series features two speakers every year.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Ranney’s research proves, rather than supports, their hypothesis that exposure to data increases acceptance of climate change. The article has been changed to reflect the fact that hypotheses are supported, rather than proven.