Communicating the consensus on climate change to college biology majors: The importance of preaching to the choir

Jeremy D. Sloane, Jason R. Wiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


College and university biology majors who are not climate change deniers may yet be unaware of the degree of scientific consensus on climate change and unprepared to communicate about climate science to others. This study reports on a population of climate change accepting biology majors at a large, private research university in the American northeast. Our students tended to greatly underestimate the degree of scientific consensus around climate change, to be only moderately worried about climate change, and to be unconfident in their ability to communicate about the state of the scientific consensus around climate change. After an introduction to the scholarly literature that substantiates and quantifies the scientific consensus on climate change in the context of a course on biological research literature, our students showed significant increases in their estimates of the consensus on climate change, and their estimates were more accurate. Additionally, they became more worried about climate change as well as more confident in their ability to communicate about the scientific consensus to others. These results are in line with the Gateway Belief Model, which positions perception of scientific agreement on climate change as an important driver of acceptance and motivation toward action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-601
Number of pages8
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020



  • climate change
  • consensus messaging
  • Gateway Belief Model
  • scientific consensus
  • undergraduate education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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