In case you missed Sunday’s New York Times, the Sunday Review section carried this fascinating piece on Climate Change and opinions about it. Forget the record heat this summer, the widespread drought and the high produce prices awaiting everyone at the grocery store, the failure to believe man’s actions on this planet contribute to Climate Change is freedom.
Beth Gardiner reports what psychologists have to see about the state of mind Americans have regarding climate change in relation to their political philosophy and I can’t help but wonder if the Register’s Mark Landsbaum was the inspiration.
Beth writes: “But researchers in the burgeoning field of climate psychology have identified another obstacle, one rooted in the very ways our brains work. The mental habits that help us navigate the local, practical demands of day-to-day life, they say, make it difficult to engage with the more abstract, global dangers posed by climate change.
Robert Gifford, a psychologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who studies the behavioral barriers to combating climate change, calls these habits of mind “dragons of inaction.” We have trouble imagining a future drastically different from the present. We block out complex problems that lack simple solutions. We dislike delayed benefits and so are reluctant to sacrifice today for future gains. And we find it harder to confront problems that creep up on us than emergencies that hit quickly.
The article continued:
Sometimes, when forming our opinions, we grasp at whatever information presents itself, no matter how irrelevant. A new study by the psychologist Nicolas Guéguen, published in last month’s Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that participants seated in a room with a ficus tree lacking foliage were considerably more likely to say that global warming was real than were those in a room with a ficus tree that had foliage.
We also tend to pay attention to information that reinforces what we already believe and dismiss evidence that would require us to change our minds, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. Dan M. Kahan, a Yale Law School professor who studies risk and science communication, says this is crucial to understanding the intense political polarization on climate change. He and his research colleagues have found that people with more hierarchical, individualistic worldviews (generally conservatives) sense that accepting climate science would lead to restraints on commerce, something they highly value, so they often dismiss evidence of the risk. Those with a more egalitarian, community-oriented mind-set (generally liberals) are likely to be suspicious of industry and very ready to credit the idea that it is harming the environment.
Now Confrimation Bias is a problem liberals have as well, but many of us on the left try to use information from non-partisan or non-political scientific organizations instead of think tanks funded by energy companies still heavikly invested in oil.
Severe weather, rising sea levels and drought like conditions are best left to scientists who don’t care about the stock price of their parent company. For those who complain about the high price of dealing with climate change now, it will be nothing compared to the cost of dealing with it later.