A giant piece of ice breaks off the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia Argentina. Environmental Psychologists are working on ways to present climate change science in more effective ways. (Black Press File)

Slaying dragons: getting inside the minds of climate change skeptics

Environmental psychologist explains Dragons of Inaction

With the 22nd case of measles reported in B.C., people are asking why a portion of the population rejects scientific evidence and instead embraces causes like Antivax, Flat Earth and climate change denial.

Professor Robert Gifford, an environmental psychologist from the University of Victoria and an expert on barriers to sustainable behaviour has some insights regarding climate change denial.

ALSO READ: Scientists warn warmer and more acidic oceans threaten marine life

“I developed the term Dragons of Inaction,” he says, adding, “There are 37 now. You could call them Psychological barriers, obstacles, even excuses or justifications.”

He says these Dragons symbolize the destructive power of inaction. The top four are “government, social inequity, conflicting goals and aspirations (CGA), and an individual’s lack of perceived power.” Roughly translated as “It’s the government’s job not my job. Why should I do something when they aren’t? I would help but…, and I’m only one person, I don’t have the power to help.”

Gifford does acknowledge that climate change is inconvenient and people are busy, with important personal goals, but says they can sometimes be used as excuses.

A further dimension to denial lies in two psychological concepts of temporal and spatial discounting – If something is not directly experienced and happening now, it’s easy to disregard and think it won’t ever happen.

“Temporal discounting, it’s like when government says something will happen in 2050, it’s easy to just tune out and spatial discounting is ‘Oh yeah they’re having problems in Africa but I don’t see anything in Sidney here.’ We have to help people see that the changes are happening, here and now.”

Not all climate change deniers are closed minded, so why can’t scientists just show them the facts?

“It’s a failure of the Information Deficit model, which is the thought that if we tell people the facts they will change, but we have whole piles of evidence that show you can give people all the information and it won’t change their behaviour.”

Psychological literature suggests people like to be consistent and if they reach an early conclusion they are often reluctant to change their minds and instead seek snippets of proof to reinforce their beliefs.

Self image is said to be another factor, with older people who saw Canada boom on the backs of their hard work and exploitation of natural resources, associating climate change as criticism of their life’s work or even themselves.

ALSO READ: Vancouver Island overdue for the big one, can also expect mega-thrust tsunami

“People like to believe their efforts in life were positive,” notes Gifford.

Environmental psychologists are making efforts to help change people’s behaviour in constructive, non-belittling ways, like developing 20 different types of paired messages, such as global vs local and sacrifice vs empowerment.

“If you tell people climate change is here and we need to sacrifice, they are less willing to change, but if you tell them climate change is here but they can be a block leader/hero/helper they are more likely to do something positive,” explains Gifford.

“If people can see that this is a human problem, caused by humans and it will have to be humans who solve it, and not just governments, scientists and engineers, that we all have to contribute and pitch in together, that will help.”



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

VIDEO: Mowi launches $30-million vessel to treat farmed salmon for sea lice

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

City of Campbell River opens the call for food trucks downtown this summer

City will use pilot project to determine the future of food trucks in the downtown core

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

Campbell River Skating Club wraps up another great season

‘We could not have possibly asked for a more encouraging year to continue to build on’

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Most Read