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Abstract

The divergence of public opinion and climate science in the English-speaking world, particularly the United States and Australia, has attracted a variety of explanations. One of the more interesting accounts, from a psychological perspective, is the influence of ideology on climate change beliefs. Previous work suggests that ideology trumps knowledge in shaping climate change beliefs. However, these studies have typically examined the influence of proxy measures of knowledge rather than specific climate change knowledge. The goal of the present research was to provide some clarification on the different influences of knowledge and ideology on beliefs about climate change. Specifically, we investigated the relationship between specific climate change knowledge, hierarchical and individualistic ideology, and climate change belief in a national sample (N = 335) of the Australian public. Contrary to research involving proxy knowledge measures, we found that people who had greater knowledge of climate change causes were more willing to accept that climate change is occurring. Furthermore, knowledge of causes attenuated the negative relationship between individualistic ideology and belief that climate change exists. Our findings suggest that climate change knowledge has the potential to positively influence public discourse on the issue. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.