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 Climate Change Challenge and Barriers to the Exercise of Foresight Intelligence

by Ellen Broaddus

In Ross et al. (2016), experts from various academic fields assess some of the barriers that aid today’s denial and inaction combating climate change, even with overwhelming evidence from the scientific community. This hesitancy is traced back to a combination of cognitive shortcomings and the difficulty to work collectively on an issue so complex and seemingly indirect. However, the authors provide examples of strategies used to combat said inaction and their efficacy.    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

Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.

by Jassmin Del Rio

Is lack of education the reason that skeptics of climate change are skeptics? Chloe Lucas, Peat Leith, and Aidan Davison suggest that, instead, a lack of trust in the scientific community is a main contributor to the skepticism. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations (UN) to produce “consensus reports” on the effects of climate change. At first, IPCC was thought of as a trustworthy organization, however, that changed in some people’s eyes after the events of “Climategate” in 2009, the release of 1079 emails that were stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Upon reading the emails, conservatives concluded that scientists were reporting false statistics, dismissing data that disagreed with climate change, and covering up errors. Subsequently, the general public grew doubtful of the scientific community and their reports on anything related to climate change. Continue reading

The Emotions of Climate Change

by Brendan Busch

Although climate change is an extremely complex issue, past studies have shown that the general public’s opinion on climate change action is influenced by subtle, general emotions. Continuing this line of research, Nicholas Smith, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Psychology and Language Studies at University College London, and Anthony Leiserowitz, a research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, set out to determine the effects that discrete emotions have on people’s support for climate change action. Smith and Leiserowitz analyzed the strength of emotional factors in comparison to other factors that influence the general public’s support of climate change policies, as well as the effects of specific emotions on people’s climate change views. Continue reading

Climate Change Adaptation: Lessening the Perceived Risk of Climate Change?

by Brendan Busch

As the future effects of climate change become more certain, it is clear that adaption to new climate conditions will be a necessity. However, will these plans for adaptation dissuade people from trying to prevent climate change? In their article “Does Learning About Climate Change Adaptation Change Support For Mitigation?” Amanda R. Carrico, Heather Barnes Truelove, Michael P. Vandenbergh, and David Dana (researchers and professors at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of North Florida, Vanderbilt University Law School, and Northwestern University School of Law, respectively) attempt to determine if a focus on adaptation has adverse effects on the public’s support of preventative climate change measures. Through psychological experimentation, this study tests the hypothesis held by some policy makers and scholars that learning about potential adaptation techniques may reduce the public’s perceived risk about climate change, and thus lessen their willingness to fight against it. Continue reading

Visual imagery and climate change

by Yijing Zhang

A review by O’Neill (2014) studies the visual representation of climate change and public’s reaction on visual imagery. O’Neill begins by outlining three essential qualities of image that are different from text: analogical quality, a lack of an explicit propositional syntax, and indexicality (unlike words that are understood as a particular way of portraying the world, images are seen as direct representation of reality). These three qualities are related when O’Neill discusses three moments of communication cycles. The moment of production is about how climate visual are made, in what form, by and for whom, when and why. The moment of the visual text is about the context of the visual climate discourses. The moment of consumption is about how does the public read the visual climate discourses. Continue reading

Proximity to Coast Is Linked to Climate Change Belief

by Sam Peterson

Despite increasingly contrasting and polarizing environmental beliefs between major political parties in many developed countries, there has been diminishing speculation in recent years regarding the existence of climate change as a scientific consensus builds. Though politicians may argue the merits of recognizing climate change as an immediate problem, the individuals bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change are those in regions that are reliant on specific weather patterns and temperature limitations. To examine how belief in climate change within the populace of developed countries is affected, in 2013, Milfont et. al. analyzed the relationship between indvidual’s physical proximity to coastlines in New Zealand and their belief in climate change. They found that in a national probability sample of 5,815 New Zealanders, people living in closer proximity to shorelines exhibited greater belief in climate change and “greater support for government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions,” and found that the proximity effect “held when adjusting for height above sea level and regional poverty,” in addition to respondent’s sex, age, education, political orientation, and wealth. The authors conclude that proximity to coastlines directly correlates with ones belief in climate change, possibly the direct effects are more “concrete and local.” Continue reading