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Saving Ourselves from the Climate Crisis

Pam Sornson

Posted on June 20, 2019 14:36

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Despite a growing volume of physical (and economic) evidence that the climate crisis is both real and impending, millions of people continue to live like there's nothing going on. Why?

The Not-So-Obvious Reasons
It's not just because people have a reasonable difference of opinion that they continue to deny the reality of climate change. In some cases, that may be the only reason, but there are many other influences on how some people react - or fail to react - to the climate crisis concern.

The Climate Denial Campaign

It's horrifically difficult to believe that there is a conglomerate of millionaires and billionaires who are actively engaged in funding climate change denials, but that is, in fact, a fact.

At the forefront of the push to downplay the concern (and its impending disasters) are the Koch brothers, who have invested heavily across the country to defeat state-based legislation that prioritizes environmental concerns. David Koch even asserts that the changed planet will be better than it was before because "a far greater land area will be available to produce food." He's ignoring the reality that increased levels of CO2 in the air and poisoned water sources will drastically alter the quality of whatever food can grow, and that increased flooding will (and already has) overwhelmed a significant portion of America's arable land.

Charles Lewis, head of the Center of Public Integrity, says of the Kochs: "They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation." And they will continue raking in billions from their fossil-fuel producing companies. Their nefarious political propaganda certainly influences at least a portion of the world's climate change naysayers.

Human Psychology

But outside influences are not the only factors in forming the denier's opinion. Research is showing that a potentially stronger force impeding acceptance of the new climate reality is fundamental human psychology.

Denial is, in psychological terms, a primitive defense mechanism that can override cognitive reflection. In many cases, the concept of catastrophic change is too overwhelming to manage, so people simply dismiss it in favor of maintaining their personal status quo.

One's personal sense of values is also a component in the forming of the denier's opinion. People will embrace their values more strongly when they perceive them to be threatened; materialistic people will 'exhibit greater materialism' as a way of managing the stress induced by the threat that climate change poses to that value.

Not insignificantly, people who live in a climate-denying community will embrace that community even tighter when its beliefs are threatened by climate science. The need to belong to a community overrides even the existential threat to one's health or well-being.

Strategizing a Unifying Plan

So, considering that every person on the planet should be actively engaged in combating climate change, how do we overcome these two powerful forces - propaganda and human psychology - to gain everyone's buy-in?

We will 'start small.' My next series will include steps everyone can take and everyone can talk about, to both address the climate crisis and to encourage our friends and neighbors to join us in the effort.

Pam Sornson

Posted on June 20, 2019 14:36

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Source: Al Jazeera

From Canada's tar sands to Chinese advertising billboards, we explore the global psychology of tackling climate change.

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