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WIREs Clim Change
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How climate change research undermines trust in everyday life: a review

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Empirical and theoretical research on trust has received little attention in climate change literature despite the central role of trust in determining responses to climate science. We reassess the challenge of climate change communication in light of recent research on trust across social, psychological, and neuroscientific disciplines. We argue that networks of explicit and implicit trust in everyday practices are a foundation of stable society. Climate change research demands that we re‐evaluate our trust in many elements of our everyday lives in a way that is profoundly unsettling. The threat posed to networks of trust by climate science has contributed to political polarization of the issue. Such adversarial debate has its source not in competing biophysical claims, but in different networks of trust in existing socio‐technical systems. We argue that a more nuanced understanding of the psychological and social foundations of trust offers opportunities for messengers of climate change to connect with alienated publics. We conclude that the challenge of climate change communication is not primarily to engender trust in scientific claims, but to re‐align the networks of trust that make everyday life possible. WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:79–91. doi: 10.1002/wcc.320

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