Thursday, April 12, 2012

New polling method reveals surprising agreement among scientists about climate risk

Environmental Research Web via Vision Prize: Scientists often agree on major issues, but this sometimes gets overlooked during ongoing scientific debates. "In the context of climate change, the perception of scientific disagreement, if exaggerated, is likely to inhibit effective action," according to Peter Kriss, the director of research of a new online poll of scientists called Vision Prize.

Vision Prizes uses a new polling method, published in the journal Science by MIT professor Drazen Prelec, to encourage thoughtful answers, especially with regard to predicting the beliefs of others. "What makes our new poll unique is that it identifies 'surprisingly common' points of agreement among climate scientists," says Kriss. It does this by asking expert participants to give not only their own beliefs, but also to predict the views of their scientific colleagues.

"For decision makers, investors and the general public, overestimating the degree of scientific disagreement is likely to lead to poorer decisions. Our first poll results, released today, show that climate experts agree on these complex issues even more than they expect. If the experts themselves overestimate their disagreements, it is hard to imagine that non-experts fully appreciate how much scientists do agree on these important questions," says Kriss. Vision Prize aims to close this gap between beliefs about the views of scientists and the actual views of scientists.

"We all recognize the need to do science communication, but we still seem to struggle to do this well," says Jonathan Foley, Director of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. "As a new approach to this problem, Vision Prize deserves our attention."...

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