Climate change is a formidable topic, challenging the research efforts of countless scientists across many different fields. Surveys find surprisingly high levels of confidence among nonscientists, however, regarding their own understanding of climate change. More than threefourths of the respondents on recent U.S. surveys claimed to understand either a moderate amount or a great deal about climate change. Follow-up questions testing actual knowledge suggest that self-assessments are high relative to physical-world knowledge. For some people, self-assessments reflect confidence in their political views rather than geographical or science knowledge. This paper replicates and extends previous research using new data: an October 2018 survey that included a four-item test of basic, climate-relevant but belief-neutral geographical or physical knowledge, such as locations of the North and South Pole. Mean knowledge scores are higher among younger, male, and college-educated respondents, and also differ significantly across political groups. Relationships between physical/geographical knowledge and selfassessed understanding of climate change, or between knowledge and agreement with the scientific consensus on climate change, are sometimes positive as expected — but in both cases, these relationships depend on political identity.



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Paper presented to annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Washington DC, April 5 2019