A recent study shows that people might deny the existence of human caused global warming, not because they are not convinced by the science, but because the idea of global warming “threatens deeply held beliefs that the world is just, orderly, and stable.” Furthermore the study finds that telling people dire facts about global warming only makes them deny it more.
In essence they feel so strongly that the world should be just that the idea that we could be causing so many bad things to happen is just too “unfair.”
The Abstract of the study
Though scientific evidence for the existence of global warming continues to mount, in the U.S. and other countries belief in global warming has stagnated or even decreased in recent years. One possible explanation for this pattern is that information about the potentially dire consequences of global warming threatens deeply held beliefs that the world is just, orderly, and stable. Individuals overcome this threat by denying or discounting the existence of global warming, ultimately resulting in decreased willingness to counteract climate change. Two experiments provide support for this explanation of the dynamics of belief in global warming, suggesting that less dire messaging could be more effective for promoting public understanding of climate change research.
Read the entire results here.
The results are pretty interesting, basically people who have a strong view that the world is just get MORE skeptical the more negative a picture you paint of the consequences of global warming. In essence they stick their head in the sand deeper the worse you tell them it will be if they don’t pull their head out.
Our results imply that because dire messaging regarding global warming is at odds with the strongly established cognition that the world is fair and stable, people may dismiss the factual content of messages that emphasize global warming’s dire consequences. But if the same messages are delivered coupled with a potential solution, it allows the information to be communicated without creating substantial threat to these individuals’ deeply held beliefs.
This is pretty interesting when you consider how the republicans (including Tea Baggers) are reacting to global warming science. These people have a very strong sense that the world should be just, and that hard work should lead to success, and that bad people should be punished. If we want to reach these people we might have to start switching the way we describe global warming challenges to them.
The science on these topics is overwhelming, but the messaging might still need a bit of work. If we want to reach the conservative side of American politics, we are going to have to start talking solutions, not just dire consequences.