#2: Climate Change Denial

Hello dear readers!

Glad to have you back! ^-^

Last week, I mentioned that this blog will be about understanding how people respond to the global environmental issue. To start, I’ve asked myself, “When someone tells us about climate change and global warming, what factors determine our response?”

For me, I have come to realise that my desire to protect the environment is rooted belief – belief in what the general media and science tells us about the state of the Earth and how it came to be so. But, what about people who don’t share these same beliefs? What about the climate change deniers?

Some of us may think climate change denial is not worth discussing. If there is any discussion, it usually ends with someone exclaiming, “Don’t these people have any brains?”

Well, this Big Think article on a research paper published in the Nature Climate Change journal would like to declare otherwise. By studying a thousand over Americans’ opinions towards climate change, their intellectual capabilities and their political and societal ideals, the paper’s authors discovered that greater intellectual skill was associated with a greater tendency to disregard climate change. Rather, people’s political and societal expectations were a more accurate indicator of someone’s stance on climate change. In a simplistic example: If one identifies as a supporter of President Trump, they’re more likely to echo his anti-environment rhetoric, because that’s what being a Trump supporter seems to be all about.

Many articles out there have discussed the psychological factors behind climate change denial, the most prominent one being cognitive bias, and this research finding seems to be in line with that idea. That’s all good, but, what do we do with such information?

Going back to the Big Think article, writer David Berreby brought up an interesting point when he credited the researchers for not giving in to their own bias: “The tendency to see these sort of results as an explanation for why other people don’t do the right thing.” He went on to elaborate:

“We needn’t accept every damn fool argument that comes down the road, but we do need to accept that we’re all inclined to protect damn fool arguments that are associated with our identities. Environmentalists… are likely – just like their opponents – to reject science that doesn’t fit their received opinions.

To learn that environmental advocates are subject to the same flaws as deniers is humbling, don’t you think?

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive an education that enforces the importance and reliability of science. For many others like me, it may be tempting to simply hurl insults at the intelligence (or lack thereof) of people who denounce climate change. But I hope what I’ve shared today has nudged you towards questioning the point in doing so, and perhaps even your own beliefs. I’ve been thinking about these things myself, and perhaps it’ll be topics for the future.

Until the next post, thanks for reading!

Tasha (^-^)/

4 thoughts on “#2: Climate Change Denial

  1. Hi Tasha!

    This was an insightful post and reading your blog post has expanded my views on climate change deniers! It was shocking to find out that higher intelligence can be related to climate change denial. You have given an example of how a person’s political views can influence their environmental beliefs. How about a person’s societal expectations? How does that affect someone’s belief in climate change?

    – Rachel

    1. Hi Rachel!

      Thanks so much for your comment! Glad to be able to share something new with you.

      Regarding the point about societal expectations, what the researchers found out was that people who believed in concepts like fair opportunities for all and the sacrifice of certain personal rights for societal benefit tended to be more invested in the issue of global warming. Based on my understanding, a generalised example I’d give would be: If someone seems more inclined to the ideals of world peace and unity, they’d likely feel worried when it comes to the climate change crisis.

      However, I’d like to highlight that the researchers actually found a positive association between intellectual capabilities and regard for global warming within this group of participants. It was in the other camp of people – those who believed more in concepts like societal ranks and “every man for himself” – where intellectual capabilities showed a stronger association with disregard, influencing the overall result of the research. (All these findings are summed up with greater accuracy in the Big Think article linked above!)

      In relation to the idea of correlation not equating to causation, I think the main thing to learn from these results is that there are other psychological and social factors that can affect a person’s regard for climate change. It’s not all about how smart they are, and these factors apply to anybody and everybody.

      Tasha (^-^)/

  2. Hi Tasha,

    I kind of wish you had directly called me out for saying in class that any suggestion that climate change isn’t anthropogenic is idiotic (I think that’s the word I used). As in, should I have said that ?

    That said, I find the generalised statement that scientists tend to reject science that doesn’t fit with our opinions tough to swallow (and yes, I see there may be some irony in this).

    But hear me out. It’s not uncommon for things I read or knowledge I gain from colleagues to “prove me wrong”. Or for studies to turn old thinking on its head. And whenever I encounter this type of new info that challenges my existing ideas, I feel fascinated and excited. And I’ve seen many colleagues have similar reactions.

    So, while I do understand the whole tribalism concept, I genuinely believe that if someone could credibly show that climate change isn’t the emergency all the evidence suggests it is, or that it’s not caused by human activity, I’d be amazed and thrilled. Because the situation stresses me out big-time. You know ?

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post !

    jc

    1. Hi Dr Coleman,

      I suppose “idiotic” isn’t the kind of word I’d like to use, but it was not directed at anyone in particular, and I do respect that it is perhaps your opinion formed over years of experience in science research and academia. I should think there are people who term others as “idiotic” solely because of their political beliefs too. However, I personally feel that it might not be so helpful to call these people “idiotic” if all it does it make an enemy out of them and inhibit cooperation.

      With regards to the statement being hard to swallow, I think I understand what you mean. I, too, feel a sense of discomfort when I’m faced with information that doesn’t quite align with my beliefs and desires. But I appreciate your commitment to being open-minded should you be provided with proper justification that climate change isn’t that big of an issue. I think that in daring to consider alternative points of view – even though it feels uncomfortable – we may be able to develop a deeper understanding of our own beliefs and its shortfalls, which would aid in finding ways to create a better world.

      Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts!

      Tasha (^-^)/

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