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