The ‘Holy Grail’ of social predictors of public attitudes toward climate change

by Andy West

A single social predictor for international attitudes to climate change renders the current literature obsolete.

There is a long-standing and extensive literature that searches for ‘social predictors’ of public attitudes to climate change: the social or demographic factors – such as political attitude, age, education or relative prosperity, among many other candidates – that can explain how people view the issue. As predictive power is sought at the national as well as the individual level, further candidate predictors might include, for example, the relative civil liberties of a nation or its exposure to climate impacts.

The Holy Grail of this field is a single variable that is potent enough to explain, in broad terms, public attitudes to climate change, such as whether it is man-made, whether they’ll be harmed by it, or what priority they might give to fighting it (relative to other issues or threats). In other words, a variable that can predict a large part of the level of such attitudes in a population; if not at the dizzy heights of 50%, then maybe 30%, say, where this is at least the largest single factor among (perhaps many) others. The general idea behind this search, sometimes made explicit, is that knowledge of the drivers of attitudes would enable publics to be nudged in the ‘right’ direction of supporting Net Zero policies.

However, outside the USA1 the Holy Grail has slipped further and further away. A dozen years or more back, the search still featured attempts to find a single powerful predictor. But as the years passed without success, efforts moved to multivariate analysis; it was hoped that three or four variables might yield greater predictive power when considered together. Unfortunately, these efforts did not deliver dramatic improvements, and also introduced disagreements about which groupings of variables were best. So, more and more variables were then pulled into the search, in a seemingly desperate attempt to find the missing magic that would make prediction possible. This required ever more complex models and increasingly sophisticated statistics.

As a result, the field now features convoluted webs of related variables, some of which themselves are high-level concepts such as ‘New ecological paradigm’, or ‘Class’ (engaged, pessimistic, indifferent, doubtful). A higher-level concept at the national level is for example ‘national attitudes to environmental care’. Ridiculous variables have been dragged in too, such as the number of climate scientists residing in each nation!

Figure 1, taken from the meta-study of Ruiz et al (2019), is representative of the current predictor literature. The details are not important; the takeaway is that overall it depicts a fiendish complexity.

Screen Shot 2023-10-17 at 4.19.37 PM

Figure 1: Public attitudes to climate change: a typical model from the literature.

The huge increase over the years in the perceived complexity of what drives attitudes to climate change has hardly improved, if at all, the power of any group of predictors (while single predictors are much less emphasised). Predictor values are mostly still poor (<20%) or very poor (<10%). The top half of Figure 2 shows a range of typical predictor values from the literature; some are older, some newer, some are from simpler models and some more complex ones, some of them concern individual attitudes while others are national in scope. However, ultimately they all arise from a chronic lack of underlying theory about the attitudes that are being examined. Only one paper features a predictor that exceeds the 30% level.2

Screen Shot 2023-10-17 at 4.20.21 PM

Figure 2: Power of predictors in the literature (top) and using cultural causation (bottom)

This situation has now changed dramatically. As my book The Grip of Culture sets out, there is an underlying theory explaining international public attitudes to climate change, which leads to an outstanding social predictor at the national level. In other words, there is a Holy Grail: a single social variable that across nations predicts a high proportion of the public attitudes to climate change (33–87% depending upon the attitude), and across a wide range of attitudes too; it is national religiosity.

Figure 3 represents the theory in the same manner as the example diagram from the literature, and the bottom half of Figure 2 shows the dramatically increased predictive power from this far more straightforward model. The attitude data comes from many independent sources – mainstream pollsters such as YouGov, Ipsos, Pew and more, plus academic surveys and the UN and EU.

Figure 3: Public attitudes on climate change: the cultural causation model

The underlying theory is cultural causation: public attitudes are shaped mainly by cultures and their interactions. There is demonstrably a cultural entity, a secular religion, of climate catastrophism, which measurably dominates public attitudes (and policy too) across nations. It also interacts with the older culture of religion (any faith), which is why the predictor of national religiosity (NR) works.3 In other words, public attitudes to climate change (whether supportive or resistive) are largely motivated by the cultural narrative of global climate catastrophe, which has soaked national publics for decades now, and in the context of Figure 3 we can thus consider them to be ‘self-driving’, yet they are also highly influenced by NR.

Unfortunately cultural behaviours are rarely intuitive, and this characteristic is reflected by the manner in which national religiosity acts as a predictor. It is multi-modal, meaning that for a number of different generic types of survey question, NR predicts public responses in a correspondingly different way. To make these ways easier to understand I will focus on ‘climate-change most-endorsing’ responses only, i.e. those responses that most emphatically acknowledge man-made climate change, or most emphatically agree with policy actions to combat its effects. (Once we can predict such responses, in practice we also know, approximately, what the climate-change less-endorsing or climate change resistive responses must be, thus there is little extra insight from mapping these in detail).

So for example here are two ways via which national religiosity will work as a social predictor: across nations, the climate-change most-endorsing responses to unconstrained survey questions, strongly correlate with NR. Whereas the climate-change most-endorsing responses to reality-constrained survey questions, strongly anti-correlate with NR.

Unconstrained questions are open-ended and don’t introduce constraints in the minds of survey participants. An example is: “How serious do you think climate-change is?” Reality-constrained questions do introduce a constraint into participants’ minds, for instance a priority relative to other issues. An example is: “What do you consider the 3 most serious threats from this list of 10?” Climate-change is one of the threats on the list.

Here is a third way that national religiosity works as a social predictor: across nations, the climate-change most-endorsing responses to mixed-mode survey questions, as plotted against NR, occupy an envelope between two linear trendlines. A mixed-mode question is one that mixes both unconstrained and reality-constrained elements within the same question. The trendlines forming the envelope boundaries are those that would occur if each element alone was plotted against NR. This is a lesser prediction as there is no linear trend, but nevertheless a defined pattern.

If we think of the above examples as describing ‘rules’ that public responses obey in each scenario, then we need seven such rules in total to fully specify how natural religiosity (NR) can predict all international public attitudes to climate change, i.e. as generated by every generic type of survey-question. These rules are briefly summarised below; throughout, ‘responses’ refers to international (non-US) climate-change most-endorsing responses, as plotted against NR.

Rule 1. Responses to unconstrained questions, correlate with NR.

Rule 2. Responses to reality-constrained questions, anti-correlate with NR.

Rule 3. Responses to mixed-mode questions occupy an envelope between two linear trends. These linear trends are what would occur for each element if it was plotted alone.

Rule 4. Responses to extremely-weakly-framed questions, occupy an envelope between two very specific linear trends. These questions don’t have sufficient emotive content to evoke cultural responses; the boundary trendlines are the weakest unconstrained (Rule 1) and reality-constrained trends (Rule 2) that remain coherent.

Rule 4 is easier to understand as: even trivial questions on climate-change aren’t answered rationally, responses simply drift between the available cultural options.

Rule 5. The responses in Rule 1 and 2 may also be ‘lifted’ on the y-axis, while retaining their expected correlation / anti-correlation according to those rules. This is due to an element in the survey question that is not culturally disputed, so invokes the same level of response across all nations. The trendline boundaries of envelopes as described in Rule 3 and 4, may also be ‘lifted’ in this manner.

Rule 5 is easier to think about like this: if you want to demonstrate higher support, throw an uncontested truism into your question; it won’t remove the cultural gradient across nations, but it will push that whole gradient up onto a higher baseline.

Rule 6. The Rule 1 responses also exhibit different trendline gradients according to how emotively aligned to ‘Catastrophe Narrative’ each prompting survey question is. The more the emotive alignment, the steeper the trendline gradient. Catastrophe Narrative is the dominant public narrative about climate change, summarized as: ‘imminent global climate catastrophe’. Because cultures are polarising, these different gradient trendlines all pivot around a common point.

Rule 6 is easier to understand as: more emotive questions invoke more virtue-signalling support from adherents of climate catastrophism, yet also more resistance from those who instinctively reject this culture.

Rule 7. The Rule 2 responses also exhibit a proportional decline on the y-axis according to how strong the constraint in each prompting survey question is. The greater the constraint, the more the responses sink down the y-axis. A weak constraint is say choosing climate change (CC) as 1 of the 6 most important issues of 17. A stronger one would be choosing CC as 1 of the 3 most important from 12; stronger still would be choosing CC as the single most important issue of 10.

Rule 7 is easier to understand as: the more that reality constrains action against climate change in people’s minds, the less they’ll support it – and ‘full reality’ produces very little support at all!

The climate-change most-endorsing responses from any international (non-US) survey taken between 2015 to late 2022, should conform to the above rules.4

The Slide-Talk TGoC1 (an X post video, 20 slides, 35 minutes) provides example charts and full details for each rule. This represents a complete paradigm change, which urgently needs to be understood by academia and mainstream pollsters alike; at the moment their efforts effectively amount to blundering around in the dark.

The Slide-Talk shows how the rules work, but not why; for anyone seeking to understand this, my book The Grip of Culture provides a full explanation based upon the straightforward model of cultural causation.

While my book includes a list of technical reasons for why the Holy Grail predictor was missed, this can be summarised as being the result of entrenched bias in social science, which labours under a misapprehension that global climate catastrophe is an output of ‘hard science’, rather than recognising its true nature – an emotive cultural narrative that contradicts mainstream science. Of course, if you aren’t looking for a culture, you probably won’t find one!

The charts in the Slide-Talk make graphically much clearer what is less obvious from the above rules, which is that cultures can have very unintuitive effects. For instance many countries appear to be simultaneously extremely concerned about climate change, yet very keen that nothing should be done about it. Wanna know why? Read the book!

As well as paperback, this link leads to a FREE PDF.


General: This post is an expanded version of the Net-Zero Watch article I authored here. (At the time this was released, I hadn’t yet created the Slide-Talk that presents all the rules in a such a clear format).

  1. One of the few things upon which I agree with the literature, is that the situation in the US is different, due to the very high degree of political polarisation there on climate change and many other issues. The theory of cultural causation still holds, but mapping this to the US is more complex. Chapter 11 in the book covers this (political stance is a great predictor, but more subtly 4 cultures are operating, of which one is still climate catastrophism).
  2. Lo and Chow’s result was due to a near miss of the correct theory, but unfortunately this was not followed up. Another study (T1) exceeds 30% for some nations but not others. My search of the literature has not been comprehensive, so I cannot be sure that other papers at least get close to the Lo and Chow result. However, confidence that my selection is reasonably representative is increased by the fact that Hornsey et al. (from which I have drawn the most predictors) is a meta study spanning 56 countries and 171 studies.
  3. All the predictor values from cultural causation in the bottom half of Figure 2 are taken from survey data between 2015 and very early 2020, i.e. pre-Covid. However, the cultural patterns still hold during and post Covid. A similar number of predicted attitudes from national religiosity have been measured in the period mid-2020 up to late 2022 (the latest measurements covered), which are likewise hugely better than the current literature, albeit the R2 values for the linear series are on average a little lower than for pre-Covid. This mild reduction is indeed very likely to be due to Covid, especially regarding reality-constrained attitudes, because Covid is a competing issue or threat.
  4. In addition to the caveat in note 3 above regarding data taken either before or during the Covid pandemic, see further caveats regarding the applicability of the predictor of national religiosity, such as selection bias, in the footnote on page 179 of ‘The Grip of Culture’. Also, because religion is very suppressed in certain countries, such as China and Vietnam, the predictor doesn’t work in these countries because a) there is no objective measure of religiosity anyhow, and b) as the suppression is very long term, we’d expect the cultural values associated with religiosity to be genuinely different than if the suppression had not occurred.

Grail in Cave

73 responses to “The ‘Holy Grail’ of social predictors of public attitudes toward climate change

  1. Do not have any expertise in this area, but sounds like substituting one composite variable measuring relative importance of fact vs. myth for another composite variable measuring the same thing.

    Does not get any closer to causation, just calls the resultant variable something else.

    • Who gives a non-political toss what people have been persuaded to believe. Fix the science.

      • That the predictor of national religiosity works so well, and (read the book) very clearly points to there being a dominant culture of climate catastrophism, means that what publics think has long since been disconnected from the science. The cultural narrative of climate catastrophism defies even mainstream science, never mind anything skeptical. Given climate policy across nations also follows clearly cultural patterns (see Chapter 12), then I’d say it’s pretty damn important to realise that its implementation has had nothing to do with the science for many years.

      • Hi Mike,

        This any use?


      • I agree with Andy. Putting a fine point on this informs to what extent the average person (or government) could be swayed by information, what strategies may be more or less effective, and therefore how much one should invest in various approaches and/or probability of certain outcomes. You can’t influence a religious belief with logic, and it takes a sort of shakubuku [“swift spiritual kick to the head” version as in the movie Grosse Point Blank :) ] to dislodge someone from a comfortable cognitive rut that they don’t even know they are in. Incremental influences and minor perturbations are not enough to overcome the steering influence of the rut.

    • No, this is not so. The post points out that the many variables used as predictors by the literature, a proportion of which indeed are composite, can be vastly improved upon by a single one that is not composite, i.e. religiosity. And further (you have to read the book), that the thing it predicts, is also a cultural belief (or rejection, or both at the same time for different scenarios), in climate-catastrophism (and hence not a rational opinion about whatever question is being asked); this is not composite either.

  2. Somewhat out of date but covering 9,736,484 responses in 14 categories:
    Note that of the 14 categories “climate change” comes last.

    • Thanks David. This survey is included in the book. It reveals a great deal more than just CC coming last. It is a reality-constrained series, so conforms to Rule 2 above, with a very robust R-squared. Hence it also conforms to Rule 7 (with a weak gradient, a six out of 17 choice is not a strong constraint). There’s also a few other useful things to be squeezed from it. The UN were so embarrassed by this survey that in 2020 they disappeared it from pretty much everywhere. While the header page can still be accessed from archive links like the one you provided, the individual data per nation or per demographic can no longer be retrieved.

  3. What is being predicted? If its an individual’s skepticism then why isn’t familiarity with the relevant data – global mean sea-level global mean temperature sufficient? The explains my skepticism. If it is why people embrace climate catastrophism then that is a much harder problem once you go beyond a lack of familiarity with and ability to examine the data.

    • “What is being predicted?”

      A large range of attitudes about climate change (e.g. will it harm my family? what priority do I place it among say 10 other issues? and many many more), all at the national level, predicted by the single social variable of national religiosity (any faith).

      Because the surveys reflect mass public attitudes (in which the demographic of those who actually know a decent amount about climate change are too small to see), then indeed that the predictor works so well points to exactly why people support, or resist, or both at the same but in different scenarios, the notion of catastrophic climate change. See Chapter 9, which explains that this comes from cultural belief or (instinctive, not rational) rejection. In other words, a secular religion of climate catastrophism dominates public attitudes; the patterns revealed by those attitudes are exactly what we expect from such an entity, which also interacts with the older culture of (real, spiritual) religion (any faith).

      • Andy, What is the difference between an empiricist and a believer? In the old days, many believed and/or were asked to believe that the Almighty brought drought, floods, earthquakes, pestilence as retribution for our evil ways. Wiser heads started looking at the data. My question is how to we increase the number of wiser heads.

      • “What is the difference between an empiricist and a believer?”

        Believers are emotively committed (and the innately skeptical emotively reject). While empiricists rely on their senses; if this includes their viewing of the data, then in theory at least, they are objective about what they believe or disbelieve. But the problem is that emotive belief bypasses rationality, and hence also what one’s senses might actually report.

        It is not just ‘in the old days’ that many people believed in religious fairy-stories. A majority of the world still does, and about half the population of the USA still thinks religion is important. This emphasizes how hard it is to roll back belief systems; more than 150 years since Darwin disproved the story of religious origin, not only do a majority still believe in their religions, but there are now concepts such as ‘God-guided evolution’ in the US, which enables religion to survive by accommodating some of the reality that has been forced on it.

        It is clear from the social data that both acceptance and rejection of climate change by international publics is due to cultural mechanisms, which is to say emotive. I don’t know how to increase the ‘wiser heads’, but it is not likely to happen by trying to spread information about physical climate change, which is complex and easily overridden by cultural narrative, as has clearly occurred so far for many years. But maybe it is much easier to prove that *global catastrophe* must be wrong, simply because it is demonstrably a cultural narrative, and all such narratives are wrong. The proof of this is immensely simpler than proving pretty much anything significant about physical climate change. And due to the antics of XR and JSO etc, the public are anyhow beginning to smell that it’s a religion. If cultural belief in global catastrophe withers, then what the science truly says, for better or worse, will have the opportunity to be heard.

  4. You”ve confirmed my bias! The catastrophic predictions via models do a poor job of accounting for obvious sources of uncertainty… Which is to say, they’re unreliable.
    As Matt Briggs keeps reminding: Models say what they’re told to say. Reality goes its own way.

    • And never underestimate the HPN – the Hip Pocket Nerve,
      the hyper invasion of bureaucrats in Universities sometimes
      out-numbering scientists and students, necessitating growth
      of grant system and issue of conditions of funding supporting
      an approved bureau narrative.

  5. Figure 3 is missing.

  6. Have a look at this Blog by Andy Stirling for another ‘take’ on some of the issues raised above:

  7. The biggest single predictor of attitudes to climate change is very, very simple: ‘Has an individual investigated the primary evidence for themselves, or do they believe what schoolteachers/the MSM tell them?’

    Everyone I know who is not financially invested in the ‘climate industry’ who has examined the facts with an open mind is a climate skeptic.

    They understand that climate changes, has always changed and that natural forces can certainly drive such changes up to and including changing from a global ice age into an interglacial (about 15C temperature change). They understand that very cold periods have existed with high carbon dioxide, warm periods with low carbon dioxide, so they are skeptical about carbon dioxide ‘driving warming’.

    They all know that carbon dioxide is an essential plant food, not a poison.

    They know that changes to urban environments can change ‘average temperatures’ and they know that lots of weather stations are inappropriately set up. They know that scientists ‘fiddled the figures’ by removing large numbers of rural measuring stations from global networks around 1990, thus making urban heat island effects dominate ‘global warming’ claims.

    They know that by moving from Yellowknife to Miami, a change of 30C+ in average temperature, no healthy human being drops down dead. So they know that an increase of 2C isn’t going to kill us at 50N. Although they accept that protecting their skin from the Florida sun is probably a good idea…..

    They know that food of some kind grows at almost all latitudes, so changes in temperature implies changes in crop growing patterns, not famines.

    They also know that US military scientists are busy ‘trying to develop weather warfare tools’ and in many cases have already succeeded. They see ‘human induced climate change’ as more to do with nefarious elites carrying out hundreds of acts of weather terrorism rather than millions of people driving cars. Even as they accept that ‘natural climate change’ sits there in the background too.

    They know the history of great floods and know that we’ve not had any floods recently to match the ferocity of those 100+ years ago. So floods aren’t caused by carbon dioxide….they can be caused by deforestation, in fact by anything that removes the ability of a river valley to slow down the progression of water after heavy precipitation.

    They know that intensity- and frequency of hurricanes hasn’t increased and they know that most major heat records occurred before World War II.

    People who bother to study are naturally skeptical, because along with curiosity comes skepticism, the need to test the assertions of others.

    The lazy, the neurotic, the slave-like and the politically correct just believe what they are told. They are lazy children, thinking that doing homework is for others, not for them.

    So my single question to determine climate change attitudes would be, in the UK: ‘Do you believe what the BBC tells you?’

    • All the surveys of international attitudes to climate change reflect the views of mass publics. The demographic of those who actually know a decent amount about climate science (wherever they are in the debate) is too small to see in such measurements. People are not lazy or neurotic to belief (or *instinctively* reject) a culture that has been shoved down the throats of publics for decades, inclusive of the extremely strong (but false) narrative thread that it is all backed by ‘the’ science, which automatically deters many from objecting.

      The BBC have indeed been a very strong mouthpiece for the culture of climate catastrophism. Not because the organisation was lying, but because nearly everyone everyone working at the BBC is an ardent believer, who therefore thinks they’re on the right side of history. Ditto for Beeb belief in other cultures more lately, including extreme trans rights culture. But until all these other cultural leanings surfaced, which does more to raise public suspicions, and *not* being armed with any knowledge whatsoever about climate change, but only a narrative of catastrophe pushed by pretty much all authority sources (bar Trump when he was Pres), it is hard to expect anything else from publics. If anything, what is perhaps surprising is the level of instinctive rejection, but this rejection has a different character between secular and religious countries (read my book to see this).

      • mm: ‘I would hazard to say that the taller the tale the more it is accepted and believed’

        Yes. As long as cultural narratives contain high emotion, and preferentially an existential angle too, then the more distanced from reality they are, the better they can fulfil their task. This task is only to bind the cultural group together with a common view and a high + shared emotive commitment. The ‘taller the tale’, the less purchase one can get on it with critical argument; one is left only with the option of saying ‘this is bonkers’, which the cultural narrative can very easily deal with, typically casting the objector as the bonkers one.

    • A quote from Plato, courtesy of Wiki: “It is generally agreed that the main purpose for Plato in using myths was didactic.[65] He considered that only a few people were capable or interested in following a reasoned philosophical discourse, but men in general are attracted by stories and tales.”
      I would hazard to say that the taller the tale the more it is accepted and believed.
      But then someone said that truth is stranger than fiction.

  8. The thing which finally caused my skepticism was what you can call the “Crying wolf effect”. This happened when I realised that all those predictions of catastrophe were not only not coming true but were wildly wrong. I felt like I was being pushed by a high pressure salesman to sign on the dotted line before I’d read the contract, “trust me” he was saying.

    • Yes, relying on basic instincts to perceive that we’re being hugely oversold a cultural fairy-story, is what has kept a very healthy resistance in publics who nevertheless know nothing at all about climate change. Especially as the hard realities of Net Zero policies are now starting to bite.

  9. In the US, the single most important measure of social attitudes is the state migration patterns. If people were truly concerned about an overheating climate, they would not be moving to the south and southwest; they would be moving to the Great Lakes region with moderate weather, ample water, lower cost housing, and plenty of recreational opportunities.

    But that’s not happening.

    • The biggest single predictor of attitudes to climate change in the US is political lean (Rep to Independent to Dem). More subtly, attitudes are determined by a complex interaction of four cultural entities, tribal Dem/Lib, tribal Rep/Con, climate-catastrophism, and religion. See Chapter 11 in my book, which relates attitudes in the US to those in the rest of the world, and shows that cultural identity is what matters in any country.

    • Bruce, even more than investing south in the US, people are investing on the coastlines, which is even more ironic. The value of beach real estate within a weekender’s drive of Washington DC has doubled in the last 15 years. President Biden, a poor man before politics, invested millions on a beach house in 2017. He did not buy a mile off the beach but right on the beach. This is the same man who recently said that climate change is more of a threat than nuclear war.

      Andy, does your book address this sort of cognitive dissonance?
      Biden may be a motivated story teller but the real estate market reflects thousands of other people’s honest and well considered decisions.

      • Ron, I don’t address cognitive dissonance. I think it is over-sold regarding strong cultural beliefs (and has no obvious manifestation in the social data); such beliefs are perfectly capable of completely overriding rationality, and totally blinding cultural adherents to any hypocrisy regarding their actions.

        It is only if the direct downsides of belief have a very negative personal impact (which is also very easily traceable to the believed culture) that any dissonance would likely occur. There is no downside impact to owning a coastal property, so no reason that dissonance would occur; our brains are perfectly capable of carrying completely opposite concepts without any difficulties at all or any implied dishonesty for those doing so.

        If OTOH, one culturally believed that a bunch of thugs were noble freedom fighters deserving of the highest praise and support, yet these thugs then captured one’s daughter and cruelly tortured and killed her for no freedom-fighting reason whatsoever, then this would be a case where any continued belief in the nobility of the thugs could only be maintained at the very high cost of suppressing cognitive dissonance. But such cases are marginal.

        The data does show that the more cultural beliefs clash with reality in the minds of the public (e.g. regarding other priorities, or likely dollars they will lose in support of the culture), then the less of them will continue to express belief. In other words, rather than fall into cognitive dissonance, more people just stop believing for the reality-constrained circumstances, but they may still continue to belief when those reality-constraints aren’t present! I wouldn’t call this dissonance either though, in that it’s a natural part of how our brains work, a feature not a bug; it’s there because cultures must in the end ‘negotiate’ with reality in order to survive.

        For the elite who are much more protected against reality constraints anyhow (more money, influence, privilege), the
        constraints would have to be very high indeed for them to back off even regarding some particular aspect alone.

      • Ron, I answered this but not sure whether it’s stuck in moderation or was eaten locally at my end (didn’t look right after I pressed post). If it doesn’t appear, I’ll write it again 0:

  10. Pingback: The ‘Holy Grail’ of social predictors of public attitudes toward climate change - Climate-

  11. Peoples attitudes will not alter the climate only natural processes can affect it. My greatest philosophy has been that to know any subject accurately, a scientist must look at the cause and effects in the simplest terms. That way, errors in assessments will not skew the predictions unnecessarily. One of the CC predictions over the past several decades has been that sea levels will rise due to man made CC. How do the human caused CC advocates explain that for thirty years I saw no increase in the tides while I lived on a tidal creek in Maryland? Just wondering.

    • This post addresses mass public attitudes, not those of climate scientists or even those of people who are highly knowledgeable about climate science or the measurements it makes; this is a tiny demographic. Those within international publics who believe in climate catastrophism are culturally, which is to say emotively, committed; as this commitment bypasses rationality, they are unlikely to be convinced by any argument that you can make which is based on climate science or measurements, whatever it may be. Those within publics who reject climate catastrophism, likewise do not do so via rationality.

  12. One of the things I find so interesting in this is its resonance with so many other “quandaries.” Economics’ “rational investor” is truly irrational because of cultural factors. The kneejerk support for Hamas even in light of its self-admitted butchery is driven by culture, not reason. Together with the much greater life expectancy of the college-educated, this may indicate that “traditionalists” are likely to lose the culture war to the “progressives,” simply because the “progressives” will outlive them.

    • The support for Hamas in the USA is sickening and completely unjustified. People need to understand the difference between Palestinians in general and what Hamas has done in Gaza.

      • “ People need to understand the difference between Palestinians in general and what Hamas has done in Gaza.”

        That would require some actual intellectual effort, which apparently is absent today generally, and most specifically on campus. These students, on some of America’s most elite campuses, have either lost their critical thinking skills, or more problematic, never developed a moral compass.

        But perhaps the most egregious are those instances where faculty have expressed “exhilaration” at the carnage.

        Are these institutions really the best we have? Sad.

  13. R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. (Ret.)

    This is an odd but understandable article in a pure science blog. I question the techniques utilized in this analysis but concur with both its importance and social guidance on all things related to climate change. However, the term “national religiosity “ carries a range of connotations to many factions, which is imprecise in struggling for some clear understanding of other’s positions. To be sure, skillful opponents to the use of fire, combustion of carbon in air, have demonized the chemical process such that lay people, untrained in technology, have come to fear the future and lay blame on other’s use of carbon based energy, “for no good reason”. We debate a nonsensical issue, does climate change exist? It has, since the beginning of this planet’s climate.

    The sole important question is whether human activity is dangerously harming the climate, the conditions which support life? In the scale of human judgments, is climate change as dangerous as dandruff? As terminal cancer? As WWIII? Will it cause a near term predictable terminal event in human history, will humanity die out due to our uncaring degradation of our sole environment? What are our costs and benefits from the use of fire? Who decides? We should and must have an honest debate on America’s prodigal use of energy. We waste much, “for no good reason” but must also accept economic reality.

    I have come to this. Proponents of the importance of climate are largely motivated by an intense hatred of capitalism, particularly American capitalism. They seek some non traditional technology to supplant fire in our society, both mobile and stationary energy systems. And they are supported by a large scientifically trained cohort which has dominant supporters in the media. Both drive public opinion based on a dread of the future, IE, if we do not stop using fire, we all will die. I note that today America graduates ten times as many PhDs as when I was in grad school in the 1960s. Many are forced to take a position to survive in a very competitive struggle for employment. And the USA has more recoverable hydrocarbons than any other nation on earth. With it, our economy will be super strong; many do not want us strong.

    As a loyal American and retired PE with decades of involvement in energy systems, I am certain that if the USA curtails the wide spread use of carbon and uranium for energy purposes, our nation will fail, and cease to exist. That bitter day is not far away. Fire must be used to support our advanced standard of living. Only technically ignorant people argue the point.

    In response to the article, I contend that catastrophic events change people’s viewpoint., e.g. the day after Pearl Harbor, 9 -11, in NYNY/ DC, or 10/7/ 2023 in Israel. Attitudes are malleable, literally forged by hard death-dealing blows.

    • “I question the techniques utilized in this analysis…”

      Question in what way?

      ‘However, the term “national religiosity “ carries a range of connotations to many factions…’

      No, it does not. National religiosity is a solid and repeatable (at around the same date) measure, which faithfully reflects just one thing, the proportion of national populations who are (emotively) committed to their particular religions. [See my book ‘The Grip of Culture’ for how the scale of religiosity across nations is derived, it is extremely straightforward].

      “… which is imprecise…”

      That across international (non-US) publics, national religiosity has an extremely strong relationship with national attitudes to climate change, could hardly be more precise. About 40 linear series from about 20 independent sources, having R-squared values ranging from about 0.35 to 0.87, underwrite this, with about half over 0.5, often well over. This is far and away the strongest data for a social predictor that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a lot). As is graphically shown by the head post, this single predictor hugely outperforms the current literature, which in latter years has focussed on groups of predictors in order to try and increase performance (with poor results).

    • Do you think Zeek is a democrat?

    • joethenonclimatescientist

      The data is from the Berkerley earth.

      there is a jump of almost 1.0 c in less than 10 years,
      There is no 1998 anamoly .

      the warming trend is quite different from the UAH data.

      In summary, there are too many conflicting data points which raise the question of the reasonableness the the berkerley data.

      • Berkeley Earth barely resembles the reanalysis data from running weather models. Weather models require the best possible starting conditions to ensure accuracy and those initializations leave a telltale trace of global climate. The other global data sets are tweaked frequently and have no incentive for accuracy or consistency.

    • Stephen Segrest, thanks for the free read of the New York Times Article, it is a good reminder for me to be thankful I do not subscribe.

      Some from the New York Times Article, and my responses.

      Earth’s energy imbalance — the difference between energy entering the atmosphere from the sun and the amount of heat leaving.
      I Write: Climate change is dynamic, Climate is in dynamic balance, Climate is almost never in Static Balance.

      Reducing aerosols in the atmosphere has quickened global warming.
      I Write: For Zeke Hausfather, even a good thing is bad.

      Ice sheets and glaciers will melt faster.
      I Write: Ice Core Records show ice accumulations on the ice sheets and glaciers is the most in the warmest times.

      Climate models have consistently found that once we get emissions down to net zero, the world will largely stop warming;
      I Write: Our emissions were net zero during the Medieval, Roman and Emian warm times and those warm times were all warmer than now. Do a search for ” humanity thrives in warm periods in history” and look at the many references. See this chart.

      The article finished with:
      Despite the recent acceleration of warming, humans remain firmly in the driver’s seat, and the future of our climate is still up to us to decide.
      I Write: Climate has always naturally changed, but Zeke Hausfather thinks we can replace natural climate change with modulation by a trace gas by removing it from the atmosphere.

      I also write: Our food supply and trees for building things will suffer as we lower the Carbon Dioxide. Our life on Earth depends on green things that grow and green things that grow, grow better with more CO2. Greenhouses often increase CO2 to over a thousand parts per million because it helps thing grow.

    • Zeek is a hardcore democrat climate alarmist.

      He sees short term changes in temperature and only recognizes the potential for a calamitous future event. What specifically is the major worry about a slightly warmer planet-mostly at night.

      There certainly is no evidence of worrisome sea level rise, so what’s the worries? What are the real actions that Democrats like Zeek have proposed to change the world’s CO2 growth curve? Charging stations??? LOL Global warming and Climate change are political issues not scientific one.

  14. This concept will only feed greater polarization among the CAGW true believers.

    “This is more evidence those stupid sky fairy worshippers just don’t believe in SCIENCE aka the TRUTH!”

    Your own dismissive comments above about religion don’t help.

    Until Atheism is recognized as a full blown religion, and in a lot of ways the most intellectually lazy of them all, your concept will only fuel greater dismissal of skeptic voices.

    Belief systems are complex, whether it be an Abrahamic religion, or Secular materialism.

    Your simplistic take on Darwin vs Religion could use some research.

    • Charles: ‘Belief systems are complex…’

      Their surface characteristics are complex, because they all have different primary narratives. However, their underlying behaviours, as bequeathed from our evolution, are identical. If there is enough social data, which there is for climate catastrophism for instance, we can see those underlying behaviours.

      What dismissive comments about religion? There is clearly a very potent (dual) relationship between national religiosity and national attitudes to climate change across international (non-US) publics. The data could hardly be clearer or stronger. Do you have any alternate reason for why this relationship exists?

      • Charles Rotter

        The tribal or cultural belief that authority is granted from the bottom up vs imposed by expertocracy from the top down.

        That rights are not granted by government vs those who think they are.

        The belief in the rights of the individual vs. the commons.
        Religiosity is a cofounding proxy for these beliefs.

      • National religiosity may or may not be a (likely weak) proxy for the framings you propose; I haven’t the examined data for such. But across nations (excluding the US) national religiosity is clearly an extremely strong predictor of national attitudes to climate change, which is what this post addresses. That this occurs because climate catastrophism is a culture in its own right, a secular religion, which interacts with the older culture of spiritual religion (any faith), is demonstrated in my book ‘The Grip of Culture’. Your comments to date don’t address either of these two things. [The same principles apply in the US, but in this case there is a 4-way cultural interaction, whereas it is only 2-way everywhere else].

      • In the USA, I can generate r>0.90 at predicting a person’s opinions on climate change simply with a two second glance at them standing next to their car. Sad but true

  15. This is not a description of “climate science” or “climate change” … but a description of a movement … professed belief based on political orientation, assumptions, beliefs.

  16. polemic, pə-lĕm′ĭk noun
    A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine. A person engaged in or inclined to controversy, argument, or refutation. A disputant; one who carries on a controversy; a controversialist; one who writes in support of an opinion or a system in opposition to another.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

    • If you mean that the post is a polemic, it is not. It presents social data that reveals national religiosity is an outstanding predictor of international (non US) attitudes to climate change. Unless anyone can bring the data down in some way – this is a fact.

      Further, my book points out that the revealed data patterns are exactly what we would expect from a cultural entity (and for instance, they compare to another entity that is inarguably cultural). This is a data based theory, not a polemical argument.

      If I’ve missed your point, apologies, please try again.

      • Curious George

        “Cultural entity”. Andy, you are such an optimist.

      • George, if you mean that instead that it is a conscious nefarious agenda, then any amount of these can attach themselves to cultural entities, but without one to attach to, these are far far weaker. Cultural entities are incredibly hard to fight compared to mere conspiracy or dishonesty. In other words, assuming it is *only* conscious and nefarious, would be a massive under-estimate of what is faced.

      • George, reply stuck in moderation, no doubt it’ll be out soon.

      • Curious George

        Andy, thanks, I only wanted to point out to a frequent misuse of the word “cultural”. I am not comfortable calling cannibalism a “culture”.

      • I am not comfortable calling cannibalism a “culture”

        The fact that you are uncomfortable with cannibalism is a cultural byproduct.

      • George, there’s lots and lots of different meanings for ‘culture’, I once had a list of about 300, but can’t locate it now. Mine is a very specific meaning, for which ‘a cultural entity’ is a much closer description. In other words a religion or an ideology; the term covers both, these work via exactly the same underlying mechanisms (that are described in Chapter 3 of ‘The Grip of Culture’). The mechanisms come from our evolutionary past, and are reflected in social data (if there’s enough of it).

  17. From the post: “While my book includes a list of technical reasons for why the Holy Grail predictor was missed, this can be summarised as being the result of entrenched bias in social science, which labours under a misapprehension that global climate catastrophe is an output of ‘hard science’, rather than recognising its true nature – an emotive cultural narrative that contradicts mainstream science.”

    I would instead say “manipulates mainstream science”.

    I am guessing that in the US the strongest single predictor of stance on climate policy is party affiliation, which also is a predictor of having a declared religious belief. A theory that I had, which I have seen independently formed by others, is that the political left tends to form a surrogate religion for those without a formal one. I have heard this voiced by Tucker Carlson and Vivek Ramaswamy, for example. There certainly is common themes to all religions that rhyme with the climate, especially fear of catastrophism, desire to cleanse impurity, sacrifice for human failings and worship of nature. Although this might explain the wider population’s views, I think Donald Trump’s (and mine) are better explained by a lifetime of skepticism training.

    BTW, I worry that the study of what drives belief will only be used to manipulate beliefs, not refine truth. As mentioned by others here, we are learning, unfortunately, that we must all be skeptical researchers on every question. There is no one source of information to be trusted. A rich foundation in general knowledge is also essential to test a likelihood of any claim.

    • Ron: ‘I would instead say “manipulates mainstream science”.’

      Extremely unlikely. There may or may not be parties manipulating mainstream climate science, but if so these parties are not social scientists. They are neither directly involved with climate science, or have any expertise to steer its path. They are simply believing a cultural narrative of catastrophe, emotively not rationally, and are consequently propagating it further as part of their ardent belief, as indeed are millions of other ordinary believers and most global authority sources too, from presidents and prime ministers and the UN elite on downwards.

      “I am guessing that in the US the strongest single predictor of stance on climate policy is party affiliation,”

      Yes, as mentioned in footnote 1 of the head post.

      “… which also is a predictor of having a declared religious belief.”

      No, it is not. Compared to most Western countries the USA is a very religious place indeed, and even religiosity in Dem/Libs is high in comparison. For sure there is a religious lean towards Rep/Cons, but there is actually a 4-way cultural interaction in the US between tribal Dem/Libs, tribal Rep/Cons, Religion, and Climate catastrophism, and it’s not intuitive how this pans out overall. See Chapter 11 in my book, which describes and charts, mostly wrt climate catastrophism, how it does in the end pan out.

      “A theory that I had, which I have seen independently formed by others, is that the political left tends to form a surrogate religion for those without a formal one.”

      This is not too far off the mark I think. But technically, there is no difference between tribal Dem/Libs and tribal Rep/Cons as cultural entities, secular religions if you will. They each have different narratives, but the same cultural mechanics support these in both cases. However, it just so happens that a bunch of other secular cultures, the oldest of which is climate catastrophism, but also extreme trans rights culture and so-called anti-racism CRT-based culture, all have strong alliances with the Dem/Libs, and hence are opposed by the Rep/Cons. So rather than view them as one amorphous culture, they are in fact separate but allied entities; however, while there’s enough social data to formally prove that climate catastrophism is a secular culture (that spans the globe, not just the US), I very much doubt whether this is the case for either trans rights or CRT-based cultures. Social psychologist Dan Kahan has demonstrated the tribal (i.e. cultural) nature of both US political sides.

      • P.S. both Dem/Lib and Rep/Con cultures have had strong alliance with religion, historically speaking; no political party would ever have been elected in the USA without this. That the Dem/Lib alliance has faded, and been replaced with a bunch of secular cultures, doesn’t not mean the relationship with religion is over. That the Rep/Con alliance with religion has remained much stronger, does not mean that there isn’t a Rep/Con culture in its own right, i.e. a politically orientated culture.

      • I agree a strong alliance of mini cultures form the Dem party in the US. I have seen conservative commentators recently analyzing pro-Palestinian culture tying into the Dem party through a common left theme: anti-colonialism. The premise is that western cultures use their technological superiority to dominate, exploit or annihilate native cultures. If one had to define climate justice I would think it would fall into a reckoning for abuses of western technology, which falls very close to other such deemed exploitations and intrusions.

        Ironically, the progressive movement is united around the concept of guilt over western progress. Virtue can be regained by financial support or in denunciation traditional western values. The recent Palestinian terror attack is causing the strongest test of this new alliance I have seen.

        The reason I felt they are manipulating rather than contradicting science is that I feel there is strong science for the enhanced greenhouse effect EGHE theory. The question is is whether this is bad, good or just change. I the world were entering a natural warming that was not linked to human activity I wonder if there would be positive embrace of milder winters and higher crop yields in a trade for an incremental increase in rate of sea level rise.

  18. in USA I always view anti-BigOil-attitude as a major driver for climate change attitude.

  19. This looks very much like confusing class with religion.
    In the West, the elite class is the least classically religious of the overall populace, and so the religious designation is capturing the agnosticism/atheism of the elite class.
    Some tests of this hypothesis:
    1) what is the divide in Israel? All Israelis are, compared to Western populations, religious albeit the more fundamentalist Jews are also the poorer ones, overall.
    2) China. Very little religion there of any kind, especially compared to the West.

    • No. The scale of national religiosities used, is a very simple measure of the self-assessed importance of religion. The samples for each nation represent their national population, in which elites would be a small fraction that would hence have little impact.

      The data-point of Israel fits into the extremely strong relationship of attitudes to climate-change with national religiosity, along with about 64 other nations.

      RE China, yes in this country and also Vietnam, there can be no objective measure of religiosity because religion is so repressed; such measurements as there are, indeed give very low religiosity, but this doesn’t necessarily accord with circumstantial evidence of more religion being practiced surreptitiously. At any rate, without an objective measure neither of these countries can be included on my scale, and hence they don’t feature in the data.

      These things are all explained in my book, “The Grip of Culture”. It would be productive to read how the data for the book (and this post) is generated, before implying there is some confusion; then if you have some substantive critique you will be much better armed to present it.

  20. Many thanks for your insightful study. It answers many questions about people’s belief systems. Science searches for reproducible evidence. In Climate studies, there is none. You have shown that the disconnect is defined by a person’s thought processes. I have had many conversations with all types of people, who simply deny scientific principles outright, with no defense of their position. It appears that many of your readers seem conflicted in the same way.

  21. This was one of the best discussions I’ve witnessed, many valid points. What I found absent or missing is the description of the mechanisms. Why do we not discuss the Biological Carbon Pump and measuring of Carbon and Oxygen cycles. In nature there is a correlation and causation between melts, runoffs and Phytoplankton Blooms. If the water is cold enough and the zooplankton consuming them excrements are large enough (generally not true in warmer waters), the sink rate is fast enough to sequester CO2. NASA is currently running the PACE program to get more measurements but we really don’t know enough yet on BCP from a GLOBAL perspective. There are many regional studies that alarmists use, but could in fact just be shifts. Also missing are calculations of natural emitted CO2 (not from burning 140 billion gallons of oil, 800 billion tons of coal and Trillions of cubic feet of Natural Gas). We need measurements on the “NET EFFECT” human burning less natural consumption. These don’t exist yet so truthfully neither alarmists nor hoaxers can claim to correct. The science and measurements just aren’t there yet. We need to admit that we don’t yet know enough and do more study before acting out of fear.

  22. In our mass produced social media culture, it’s not difficult to shape views in our society. This article references a climate science study warning about the potential premature deaths of 1 billion persons. The author of this article dug into the references for the study and found one of the authors was a musicologist. I guess nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like his work in climate science you could always request a rendition of “The Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore.”

  23. UK-Weather Lass

    “… In the name of keeping us safe from a virus so deadly hundreds of millions had to be tested to know they’d had it…”

    So wrote Ramesh Thakur, a former UN Assistant Secretary General, describes the simple insanity of COVID-19 measures as they punished the UK population for a crime no one voted to have on the books. And all our efforts did absolutely nothing positive as the Sweden v. China match up virus stats suggest. And not to be content to have damaged enough already we now have large numbers of people suffering from mRNA vaccines introduced to their bodies when it certainly was not sure they would do no additional harm to them.

    Climate change is the same game. Introduce a villain – carbon dioxide – which we are told causes temperatures to rise (a lie since the GHG effect is about slowing down cooling but not adding heat) and then blame it on human emissions of the same caused by burning fossil fuels. Ignore the fact that humans only contribute four percent of total carbon dioxide for the planet and if we stopped tomorrow the world wouldn’t notice it – ever. Introduce secondary consequences – rising temperatures, greater weather extremes, rising sea levels etc., (of which only the temperature rise is true but didn’t harm our ancestors in the Holocene etc) – and set a critical date by which all is lost when human beings have not made one successful prediction beyond it’ll probably rain tomorrow in our entire history.

    I’d say ‘we’ have/are :
    1) Lost all large scale cognitive ability – which is largely down to our education facilities
    2) Lost all honesty at leadership levels in ALL walks of life.
    3) Throttled the voices of reason via cancellation, ostracism, threat, or plain dishonesty
    5) Deliberately misinformed people repetitiously to numb thought processes
    6) Deliberately undermining parental control of their children in the education sector.

    It seems we are far too easy on the baddies giving us all this duplicitous grief and dishonesty. After all are they not the ones telling the lies, doing all the cancelling and acting like they are the goodies when doing all this absolutely unnecessary harm to all of us!

    And so can we please start telling the baddies how bad they are …

    • UK Lass, your list 1) to 6) is fairly close to what cultural entities naturally do, and have done throughout our entire history. Regarding 1) Rationality at Scale (RaS), we haven’t lost it all, cultural entities work constantly to undermine RaS, and RaS works constantly to limit cultures. It’s like a forever war, which sways this way and that, but all of our institutions are not yet captured by various new cultural entities (such as climate catastrophism and those based on CRT and Extreme Trans-Rights narratives), and plenty of fight-back is occurring. However, regarding ‘honesty’, and ‘deliberate’, it’s a massive under-estimate of what we face to assume that the prime cause is a conscious, nefarious agenda. Such agendas can ride the backs of culture, and do. But they are very weak forces alone, whereas cultural entities can easily and *subconsciously* coordinate hundreds of millions of people or more, and can capture masses of perfectly honest and intelligent individuals, who then direct all their skill and effort working to the cultural purpose, while thinking that they’re on the right side of history. This is why cultural entities are so incredibly hard to fight; the vast majority of adherents are blind to their own hypocrisies. If it was *only* dishonesty we faced, it’d be over by tea-time. But dishonesty and bad purpose surfing on a giant cultural wave of ardent and passionate and *honest* belief, is a foe many orders of magnitude more powerful.

    • Reply stuck in moderation, no doubt it’ll be out soon.

  24. Hi Andy,

    OT. I wanted to email this to you, but can’t find an email address.

    Robert Sapolsky posits he has determined we don’t have free will. I thought you might be interested.

    I believe he may be trying to supply “science” to justify policies that go light on criminals. He hasn’t thought it through, IMO.

    If we are fully deterministic, if one person mur–ders another, the mur–derer has shown his deterministic self to be dangerous. If kil–ling isn’t immoral, then if society chooses to subject this person to a terminal penalty, that isn’t immoral either. This would prevent further acts from the mur-derer.

    Likewise concerning a drunk who drives and ki–lls someone. The drunk likewise could be subjected to the terminal penalty.

    Saying we have no free will opens a floodgate of problematic scenarios.

    That’s good, says Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky. That’s progress. But there’s still a long way to go.

    After more than 40 years studying humans and other primates, Sapolsky has reached the conclusion that virtually all human behavior is as far beyond our conscious control as the convulsions of a seizure, the division of cells or the beating of our hearts.

    This means accepting that a man who shoots into a crowd has no more control over his fate than the victims who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It means treating drunk drivers who barrel into pedestrians just like drivers who suffer a sudden heart attack and veer out of their lane.”

Leave a Reply