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US Study: Climate Change Skeptics ‘Winning War of Words'

FILE - A woman walks past the COP21 logo in the Climate Generations area during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, Dec. 1, 2015.

As leaders meet at the climate change summit in Paris, new research suggests climate change skeptics are “winning the war of words.”

Writing in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science, researchers at Michigan State University say they showed 1,600 adults fabricated news articles about climate change. Some focused on the positive aspects of stemming climate change, while others portrayed it as hyped.

One positive example was an article that said dealing with climate change will improve public health, while a negative article said climate change is pushed by “liberal scientists” to get government funding. Other positive messages were centered on economic opportunity, national security and Christian stewardship.

Negative articles also contained the arguments that climate change is exaggerated by environmentalists and that Democrats were using it to regulate business.

After reading the articles, the subjects were given a survey about their beliefs on the issue. None of the four positive messages changed the subjects’ “core beliefs,” the researchers found.

The negative messages caused people to be “more apt to doubt the existence of climate change,” according to the study.

That was true of liberals and conservatives.

"That's the power of the denial message," said Aaron McCright, a sociologist and lead investigator on the study. "It's extremely difficult to change people's minds on climate change, in part because they are entrenched in their views."