Communicating the Science and Human Significance of Climate Change

by Ellen Broaddus

Seidler and Stevenson (2017) review two books dealing with the psychological factors that impact the personal and societal undervaluing of humanity’s role in causing climate change and its effects on them. They stress that this is not a new issue: even in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized the need for a systemic change in energy production and consumption. Almost 30 years later, CO2 emissions have more than doubled, and it is still unclear whether current efforts such as the Paris Conference (COP) will lead to meaningful action.

The two books, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming and Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change suggest that our inaction is caused not by a data gap or lack of understanding of the risks but our “psychic habits, social dynamics, and ethical quirks”. In the first book, author Stoknes discussed the need for effective marketing. While studies show that “scary” emotional marketing tactic is successful among almost all audiences, Stoknes poses some important questions about the role of marketing and persuasion: is the societal denial of climate change a result of too few messages? What is the balance between sufficient advertisement and evoking denial and rationalization? Are we presenting enough range of marketing tactics to engage everyone? Continue reading

The Largely Unacknowledged Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

by Ellen Broaddus

Eva and Robert Gifford (2016) assess the relationship between climate change and mental health, looking at the environmental causes, effects, and social factors, the individuals and communities that are most vulnerable, and possible solutions. This largely untouched field of climate change research traces many of today’s physical and mental diseases to the environmental uncertainty and fear-driven anger caused by both drastic and incremental weather pattern changes. The most ubiquitous link emphasized the increase in climate-connected psychological responses: citing floods and droughts accompanying “anxiety, shock, depression, sleep disruptions”, and heat waves being linked to increases in “homicide, suicide, and spousal abuse”. In addition to these short-term reactions, environmental insecurity has led to long-term consequences, especially in children. Recently there has been a rise of respiratory conditions and asthma as a result of air pollution, causing anxiety for children and their families. The link between natural disasters and prevalence of social withdrawal and PTSD has been shown to alter the stress responses of adolescents, putting them at “higher risk for later health challenges”. Continue reading

The Motion to Mitigate Climate Change through Emotional Stories

by Annette Wong

As the environmental advisor to the British Government, and a co-organizer of the UN climate change summit, Alex Evans has a unique theory on why the Paris environmental summit far exceeded the success of the Copenhagen summit. Evans suggests that environmentalists and green activists in the Danish summit attempted to present climate change issues with “pie­charts, acronyms and statistics”, what he thought was a boring and unengaging approach. When the Paris summit begun, it seemed that environmentalists understood that the most effective way to promote the urgency of climate change was through narrating personal stories in hopes of evoking emotion. Continue reading

Can our ancestors school our scientists on how to solve climate change?

by Karalee Corley

In our current, complex state of struggle to mitigate climate change, the question begs to be asked: can science alone offer the knowledge to resolve climate change? Maybe not. Science instructs us to know and observe processes such as climate change in the natural world. We have done so for decades, yet the data reported on the negative changes in our environment cannot apparently, by itself, inspire societal change. In a recent article, Smithsonian geographer R.D.K. Herman (2016) offers vehement argument, and extensively evidenced non-scientific knowledge, that the scientific disciplines will not resolve the issue of our decaying planet on their own. The author asserts that the predominance of capitalism and colonialism in our recent history has fostered a societal one-sidedness and overconfidence in our scientific outputs. Continue reading

Citizenship for a changing global climate: Learning from New Zealand and Norway

by Jake Kessler

Two professors at the University of Canterbury teamed up with a professor from the University of Oslo to investigate young persons’ attitudes towards citizenship in Norway and New Zealand. At first glance the two countries are remarkably similar. New Zealand and Norway both have approximately 4.5 million citizens, are developed, are quite “egalitarian,” and are internationally known for their having stable political environments. However, the forms of democracy that have developed in the countries are quite different. New Zealand has embraced a market liberal form of democracy that has resulted in mass privatization of various industries. Norway embraces socialist ideals, and has a strong public sector and a long history of public-private cooperation. The authors looked at the students in both countries to understand how young adults from these affluent countries view their citizenship, and responsibility towards the global community as our climate changes radically. Continue reading

Problem Not Solved

by Jassmin Del Rio

Unfortunately, the fact that that there is almost complete consensus among scientists that climate change is occurring is not enough to completely convince the general public. There are some techniques outlined by Maxwell and Miller that might be able to get more people to acknowledge the existence of climate change. They also outline the many factors that contribute to why 25% of Americans continue to deny climate change.

First, there are many biases that need to be accounted for before there can be any media influence to persuade people to rethink their beliefs. To make matters worse, Maxwell and Miller stipulate that there are popular media outlets including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal that provide false information to the public. This often leads to distrust in journalism and therefore disbelief in climate science. Continue reading

Climate Change and Psychology

by Harrison Chotzen

In march of 2015, a group of psychology professors from the College of Wooster published an article describing the value of psychological research in combating climate change. The group argues that while significant research has been done on institutional actors (i.e. governments and industries) and technological, demographic and economic trends, far less has been done on the individual level, which they claim, through the adoption and support of ecofriendly technologies and policies, ultimately drives societal change. The article suggests that psychological research should be a more frequently utilized in climate change mitigation and adaption discussions, arguing that the social insights it provides are ideal tools for crafting clear and effective programs and policies. As evidence for this argument, the article discusses three primary areas in which psychological investigation makes positive contributions to climate change research. Continue reading