How Humans Think about Global Warming

The Psychology of Climate Change

The Science and Scholarship of How Humans Think and Feel about Global Warming

A wealth of scholarly and scientific studies finds that fear-based appeals around climate change actually result in increased climate skepticism and fatalism among much of the public. Efforts to link current natural disasters to climate change, some studies argue, motivate liberals and environmentalists, but alienate moderates and conservatives. Some people, one study notes, “are likely to buy an SUV to help them through the erratic weather to come” for example, rather than support fuel-efficiency standards.

April 8, 2014 | Breakthrough Staff

A growing body of scholarly and scientific studies finds that fear-based appeals around climate change backfire, resulting in increased climate skepticism and fatalism among much of the public.

This post summarizes scholarly and scientific articles published in peer-reviewed publications on the psychology of climate change.

Many of the same studies indicate that liberals and conservatives respond to fear-based appeals about climate change differently. Efforts, for example, to link current natural disasters to climate change motivate liberals and environmentalists, but alienate moderates and conservatives.

On a positive note, many studies show that framing climate solutions around technological and economic progress and solutions increases belief in global warming.

Climate Skeptics Swayed By Solutions, Not More Climate Science

Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers

Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change? And what does it need for us to become fully convinced of what we already know?

George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and the activists of the Texas Tea Party; the world’s leading climate scientists and the people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals.

Along the way his research raised other intriguing questions:

  • Why do most people never talk about climate change, even people with personal experience of extreme record breaking weather?
  • Why did scientists, normally the most trusted professionals in our society, become distrusted, hated, and the targets for violent abuse?
  • Why do the people who say climate change is too uncertain become more agitated about the threats of cell phones, meteorite strikes or alien invasion?
  • Why does having children make people less concerned about climate change not more?
  • And, why is Shell Oil so much more concerned about the threat posed by its slippery floors than the threats posed by its products?

Don’t Even Think About It argues that the answers to these questions do not lie in the things that make us different and drive us apart, but rather in what we all share: how our human brains are wired, our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blindspots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe.

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About arnulfo

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