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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So, Now We Can Stop Dithering about whether Climate Change Is Real, Right? Don't Hold Your Breath.

Posted by on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 11:34 AM

As Goldy mentioned in yesterday's morning news, a study largely funded by the coal billionaire and climate-change skeptic Charles Koch—and led by physicist and climate-change skeptic Richard Muller—has found that climate change is real and "humans are almost entirely the cause."

So we can finally stop dithering about whether the human species is drastically changing the climate, right? We're all on board—right?

Sadly, the answer might be no. Why? Because lots of people aren't rational. (Paleoclimatologist Michael Mann wryly damned Muller's study with faint praise, saying it "demonstrated once again what scientists have known with some degree of certainty for nearly two decades.")

The whole climate-change debate has kicked off a corollary line of study—the cultural reasons for irrational climate-change denial. It's never really been about the science, researchers like Irina Feygina at NYU have found. It's been about mass psychology. (Others, like Dr. Luis Villarreal, think irrational group thinking, especially in terms of group identity, has biological-evolutionary roots.) Here's the abstract for Feygina's 2009 article titled "System Justification, the Denial of Global Warming, and the Possibility of 'System-Sanctioned Change.'"

Despite extensive evidence of climate change and environmental destruction, polls continue to reveal widespread denial and resistance to helping the environment. It is posited here that these responses are linked to the motivational tendency to defend and justify the societal status quo in the face of the threat posed by environmental problems. The present research finds that system justification tendencies are associated with greater denial of environmental realities and less commitment to pro-environmental action. Moreover, the effects of political conservatism, national identification, and gender on denial of environmental problems are explained by variability in system justification tendencies. However, this research finds that it is possible to eliminate the negative effect of system justification on environmentalism by encouraging people to regard pro-environmental change as patriotic and consistent with protecting the status quo (i.e., as a case of “system-sanctioned change”). Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

In other words, the deniers won't believe the rational science. To get them on board, we'll have to appeal to their emotions: their patriotic pride and their fear of change.


Comments (19) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
Hey, what are 120 degrees F temps in the South and massive Blue State subsidized crop failures between friends?

Jesus said "Be The Money Changer and Get Rich!"

Remember, as God said "Only a Rich Man Can Afford A Line Of Camels And They Must Carry Full Loads Of Gold!"
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 31, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
"To get them on board, we'll have to appeal to their emotions: their patriotic pride and their fear of change."

That's the American Political System right?
Posted by Foonken2 on July 31, 2012 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3
People still believe in gods... of course they're not going to be convinced by facts.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on July 31, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Fnarf 4
My dumbshit relatives wouldn't believe it if the damn clapboards on their house started to char. Unless they got a sign from Jebus, i.e., a television preacher they have faith in.
Posted by Fnarf on July 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM · Report this
Mike 5
Pardon my juvenile contribution: Irina Feygina sounds like a character in a James Bond movie.
Posted by Mike on July 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
balderdash 6
Okay, so first off: no doubt this is a slam dunk. Right? Right. Hopefully this signals the beginning of the end of institutionalized political climate-change denial, at the national level. That seems like an optimistic but realistic ambition.

But no, it's not going to shut up an entire generation of deniers. I mean, we still have creationists, right? And they've had a hundred and fifty years to get their ass-backwards shit together. Give it a couple generations and I think climate change denialism will fall out of the mainstream, if nothing else because its effects will be increasingly pronounced. Even then, though, I don't expect that dithering about exactly what caused it, and of course a great deal of self-exonerating excuse-making, will end.
Posted by balderdash on July 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Drastic? Maybe, maybe not.

Good luck convincing the 3 billion people living in poverty they can only ever have one 40 watt light.
Posted by Sugartit on July 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
ryanayr 8
Gee, embracing bad science for political reasons never had any bad outcomes, right?
Posted by ryanayr on July 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 9
next arguments:
1. yeah it's real, but it's too expensive to change
2. yeah it's real, but why should we change when china is the problem
3. yeah it's real, but it's too late, let's concentrate on adapting.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 31, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
@7 so buy 40 watts of LED lights. That's more than my house uses on all the floors.
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 31, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 11
There is a large group of people who value preserving their emotional connections to the world as they see it far more than what's real or rational or science supported. Perhaps they don't understand what these systems are all about or perhaps they are just disinterested in them, I'm not sure which, but it goes beyond conservative versus liberal. It just so happens that global warming comports to one ideology better than another but the problem of distrust/ignorance of science is not completely a left or right problem.

Though I will say that the liberal value of being open to change and accepting of other points of view is naturally more amenable to the nature of science.
Posted by Arsenic7 on July 31, 2012 at 2:18 PM · Report this
How do you explain the record low number of tornadoes (80% below normal) in July?

And isn't that a good thing?

And why did the climate ambulance chasers only report the fires in the Rockies, but not the subsequent two weeks of thunderstorms?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 31, 2012 at 2:40 PM · Report this
balderdash 13
@7, yes, because clearly the optimal strategy for reducing our energy consumption is to take it away from the people who use the least. What the fuck are you even talking about?
I mean, that's not even a straw man. It doesn't make any sense. It's still urban populations and industry, in industrialized/-izing nations, that are sucking up all the world's power.
Posted by balderdash on July 31, 2012 at 2:41 PM · Report this
watchout5 14
Wake me up when it's time to get the national guard involved. They aren't going to give a fuck till it gets to that point, free pollution for all tiny Chinese made American flags for some!
Posted by watchout5 on July 31, 2012 at 2:43 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 15
So what if every one is on board. You gunna stop driving your car? I didn't think so. Me neither.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on July 31, 2012 at 5:55 PM · Report this
I don't think Koch is a climate change skeptic, he knows it's real and just doesn't care.
Posted by MikeB on July 31, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
@13 are you going to stand in the way of 3 billion people who want disposable incomes, cars, TVs, fridges, air conditioning and space, all things people want as they climb out of poverty? Re u going to tell China to stop building 600 plus coal power plants in the next decade so Chinese can live middle class lives?

You know what causes global warming? Prosperity. Good luck taking that from people.
Posted by Sugartit on July 31, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 18
@12- Cherry picking a couple weather events does not prove anything about climate. You should learn the difference between the two bold faced words in that last sentence there.

@15- I don't have a car.

Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on July 31, 2012 at 10:40 PM · Report this
True about election politics, also. The Dems are wrong appealing to voters with facts; just tell them that change is bad, stick with Obama.
Posted by sarah70 on July 31, 2012 at 11:01 PM · Report this

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