The power of the anecdote, climate change edition

We have had a long-running discussion about the power of the anecdote here on TIE. It’s how medical myths get started. It’s why it’s hard to change physician behavior. It’s why it’s hard to get policy to be research-based. Because what people see and experience themselves seems to matter much, much more than what the data and evidence show.

Today, a tweet from Chris Cillizza made this point unbelievably well with respect to climate change. He references this map:


2014 was pretty much the warmest year on record except for a few places, like the East Coast and Midwest of the United States, excluded. The map above shows the world’s temperatures in February of this year compared to 1981-2010. For pretty much the entire world, that month was startlingly hotter than the last 30 years. That’s except for the East Coast and the Midwest of the Unites States. There, it was much colder than usual.

It’s also, ironically, where the most influential climate skeptics in the entire world live. But good luck convincing them otherwise. It doesn’t matter that the vast majority of evidence and data tell a different story than what they are experiencing. The anecdote is powerful. As Matthew Herper replied to me on Twitter:


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