Women Know More About Climate Change, Men Think They Do

Sociologist Aaron McCright, in a recently published academic article, analysed 7 years of Gallup polling data on environmental issues (from 2001-2008) and reached these startling (not) conclusions:

  • women have a greater scientific understanding of climate change than men do;
  • women are more likely than men to worry that climate change is a large problem; but
  • men think they know more about climate change than they actually do while
  • women think they know less about climate change than they actually do.

Why do these findings not surprise me?   They’re disturbing in more than one way.  First, as blogger Matt McDermott says, most climate skeptics — at least the most prominent ones — seem to be men. And yet they’re more scientifically ignorant than women.  I have to say that in my anecdotal experience I’ve been questioned extensively by a number of people who are skeptical that global warming is occuring.  Every one of them is male.    But before we celebrate the clear thinking of women, Professor McCright’s findings also point to cause for concern.  As he describes in detail, numerous studies have shown that girls and women frequently underestimate their strength and understanding of science and math.  His is yet another, demonstrating  “a troubling pattern that inhibits many young women from pursuing scientific careers.”


Reader Comments

4 Replies to “Women Know More About Climate Change, Men Think They Do”

  1. The confidence issue certainly could be a gender effect. But there are also studies showing that confidence and actual knowledge are poorly, sometimes inversely, related. People who don’t know anything, apparently, are often unaware of their ignorance.

  2. “women have a greater scientific understanding of climate change than men do;”

    Even though I am a man I agree entirely.

    Whenever I read something by James Hanson, Phil Jones, Gavin Schmidt or Al Gore I always check to see if is true with Joanne Nova, Ann McElhinney, Donna Laframbroise, Sally Baliunas, Jennifer Marohasy and Judith Curry.

  3. In Canada, we are finding that it is women who are more active on issues of climate change, not simply more knowledgeable. RangiChangi Roots: Many Cultures, One Climate is a Vancouver, BC-based organization working across cultures to engage intercultural dialogue and action on climate. It is only by working to stimulate dialogue that we will inspire people to action.

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About Ann

Ann Carlson is currently on leave from UCLA School of Law. She is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and was the founding Faculty Director of the Emmett I…

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