Nationally representative surveys conducted in 2008 and 2010 found significant declines in Americans’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and trust in scientists. Drawing upon the Social Amplification of Risk Framework, this analysis empirically examines the impact of “climategate”—an international scandal resulting from the unauthorized release of emails between climate scientists in England and United
States. The results demonstrate that “climategate” had a significant effect on public beliefs in global warming and trust in scientists. The loss of trust in scientists, however, was primarily among individuals with a strongly individualistic worldview or politically conservative ideology. Nonetheless, Americans overall continued to trust scientists more than other sources of information about global warming. Several other explanations for the declines in public understanding are also explored, including the
poor state of the economy, a new administration and Congress, diminishing media attention, and abnormal winter weather.