If you believe that climate change is a problem you’re likely to have more Facebook friends than someone who does not believe man made climate change is a problem – at least if you’re Finnish.
Despite a scientific consensus on climate change there are some radical differences of opinion on the topic among the public. Juha Itkonen, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, decided to survey 5,000 Facebook users in Finland to find out more about how the public disagrees about the issue.
On average, each respondent had 262 ‘friends’, but respondents who did not believe climate change was a problem had far fewer. Users were invited to complete a survey via an app on their Facebook account.
‘The opinion about climate change is not born out of facts and reason alone. Values and social networks also have an impact,’ says Itkonen.
The way a person’s social network is structured may lead to them changing their view more slowly, and polarising topics, such as climate change, tend to reduce a network’s ability to transmit the message, according to the research.
Differences in opinion slow down the transfer of information. When communicating scientific findings, polarised opinions in a social network reduce the network's ability to transmit the message.
‘For example, talking about carbon taxation in conjunction with scientific research may encourage the audience to question the science as well if the social environment has negative views about taxes,’ adds Itkonen.
It’s also worth considering that according to a Gallup poll, US climate change sceptics tend to be in higher age groups that lag behind younger groups in social media use. The sceptical users might be less social media savvy – or just more selective with their friends.