Capital Ideas Blog

Sweating is believing in global warming

By Chelsea Vail

From: Blog

President Barack Obama had the weather on his side when he introduced his new climate change plan Tuesday at Georgetown University. Yes, it was hot. Yes, Obama even took off his jacket. And yes, the heat did more than make the audience sweat—it helped Obama make his point.

When people feel warm, they are more likely to believe in global warming, says research by Chicago Booth Professor Jane Risen and her coauthor Clayton Critcher of the University of California, Berkeley. Their paper shows that physical sensations like heat can help people imagine a hotter world, and that’s more influential than the piles of existing data on climate change.

Importantly for Obama and other lawmakers, Risen and Critcher found this held true across the political spectrum. Whether liberal or conservative, participants believed more in global warming when they were asked about their views in a heated room.

Of course, some people have first-hand experience with the effects of global warming. “Those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it—they’re busy dealing with it,” Obama said. It seems that lawmakers may have a new tactic at their disposal—putting people in the hot seat to avoid the perils of hot water.  

For more on Risen and Critcher’s research, watch a video of Risen explaining their methodology.


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