7 Trust in information sources

Participants were asked how much they trusted 16 nominated sources of climate change information in the pre-workshop survey. Trust was measured on a scale of 1 = distrust a lot, 4= unsure and 7 = trust a lot. Overall, levels of trust were moderate to low as shown in Figure 21 below. Participants accorded most trust to scientific sources: academic articles (5.77, SD = 1.19), the CSIRO (5.75, SD = 0.89) and books (5.34, SD = 1.14). Family and friends were also seen to be reasonably trustworthy (4.76, SD = 1.43). Least trusted sources were internet blog sites (3.13, SD = 1.16), newsletters or flyers from interest groups (3.5, SD = 1.35), and television news and current affairs programs (3.8, SD = 1.58).

Figure 21. Mean trust in information sources

Participant feedback further demonstrated trust in the CSIRO and scientists.

“...the Government’s got a three year outlook and scientists for the last hundreds of years have been thought leaders and guiders in the society. I’m not seeing that so far today”.

“That’s why you need the CSIRO and people like that to stand up and say, guys; this is what has to be done”.

“...you’ve got to get it from a verifiable source. And that means it has to be something that’s sourced from an academic source. I mean, you can go and listen to the television and they’ll tell you something that’s a heap of rubbish.”

Some participants also thought there were vested interests involved in climate change research.

“I think we hit an important point on the head. I think a lot of these issues that we face are polluted with so much misinformation; twisted information, and for want of a better way of putting it, hysterical information. Let’s face it; it becomes just too difficult to know who’s actually telling the truth and who’s not. And I know from my point of view, I don’t trust what I hear unless I actually see the data and I can then draw the conclusions myself, because there’s too many vested interests of one kind or another influencing it, as far as I’m concerned”.

“And researches have a vested interest too. Researchers have a vested interest in getting grants and keeping their jobs and all those sorts of things”.

“Academics have to think about their funding too...And most of the time, they’re funded by industry, so go figure”.

Others weren’t sure who to believe.

“...there’s so much misinformation. You don’t know who to believe, you don’t know what to take up. It makes it very difficult”.

“I think I’m probably even more confused about all the information that’s available, because there’s people saying it’s absolutely definitely happening, and then people saying that the science is questionable, and then people saying that CO2’s a natural occurring gas so why is it considered a pollutant? So I’m even probably more uncertain of what is it – what’s actually true and what’s not true, because there’s – everyone’s an expert”.