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

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

The Dangers of Climate Change Denial

by JP Kiefer

While conspiracy theories are relatively common and well-studied, very little research has been done investigating climate change conspiracy theories and their especially harmful nature. According to Douglas (2015), conspiracy theories tend to develop around global-scale events with enormous significance that individuals have trouble believing can be explained by mundane or ordinary details. Climate change fits this description perfectly, as science has shown that it is caused by small, common actions such as driving a car. Because of this, a number of climate change conspiracies have developed, such as that scientists have made up climate change for political reasons, to get research grants, or to help those who invested in green energy technology profit. Continue reading

The Dangers of Climate Change Denial

by JP Kiefer

While conspiracy theories are relatively common and well-studied, very little research has been done investigating climate change conspiracy theories and their especially harmful nature. According to Douglas (2015), conspiracy theories tend to develop around global-scale events with enormous significance that individuals have trouble believing can be explained by mundane or ordinary details. Climate change fits this description perfectly, as science has shown that it is caused by small, common actions such as driving a car. Because of this, a number of climate change conspiracies have developed, such as that scientists have made up climate change for political reasons, to get research grants, or to help those who invested in green energy technology profit. Continue reading

Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change

by Sam Peterson

A serious increase in the rate of climate change began almost two centuries ago with the inception of fossil fuel combustion, and global warming became a focal point in media coverage more than twenty years ago, yet no industrialized or developing nation has sufficiently reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), or adequately educated its populace to the dangers of rapidly fluctuating global temperatures. Norgaard examines worldwide response, or lack thereof, to climate change in a Development Economics background paper for the 2010 World Development Report for the World Bank and finds that citizens generally do care about climate change, but a systemic and systematic psychological routine of denial and widespread misinformation hinder the public response. Continue reading