Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Psychology of Climate Change Denial

 The Australian Psychological Society
Whilst the vast majority of people claim to be concerned about the climate, it is also the case that large numbers of people also avoid, minimise, switch off, or distance themselves from effectively engaging with the problems. A small but noisy minority actively deny that there even is a problem. How do we understand this, and how do we solve the “It’s Not My Problem” problem?
One of the ways of dealing with denial is to raise awareness of the scientific consensus on climate change.  The importance of this cannot be overstated. Typically, the general public think around 50% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. The reality is that 97% of scientists agree.
Psychologists who have specialised in understanding science denial have found that the best way to respond to this is to use a branch of psychology dating back to the 1960s known as “inoculation theory” (See Cook, 2015). The way to neutralise misinformation is to expose people to a weak form of the misinformation. The way to achieve this is to explain the fallacy employed by the myth. Once people understand the techniques used to distort the science, they can reconcile the myth with the fact.
With respect to climate change, science denial can be stopped by first explaining the psychological research into why and how people deny climate science.
Having laid the framework, you then show people how to examine the fallacies behind the most common climate myths. There are five common techniques that are used to create myths about climate change.

  • Fake experts
  • Logical fallacies
  • Impossible expectations
  • Cherry picking
  • Conspiracy theories