Preserving the Environment

Why Facts Don’t Work With Climate Change Deniers

January 5, 2015
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Why Facts Don’t Work With Climate Change Deniers
Constant exposure to news images of hurricanes and wild fires can make people apathetic to climate change, according to biologist Joe Hanson. David McNew/Getty Images
Joe Hanson explains the psychology behind anti-science in a single video.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and near scientific consensus, there’s a big segment of the American population that’s skeptical or in denial that we’re causing the planet to heat up. In fact, a revealing poll from the Global Trends 2014 survey found that just a small majority (54 percent) Americans believe climate change is largely the result of human activity, ranking dead last among the 20 other countries polled.

Even if there are libraries of mounting evidence on the realities of global warming, as Joe Hanson (biologist and host of PBS Digital Studios’s “It’s Okay To Be Smart“) says in the clip below, “facts don’t always work” with climate change deniers.

In his recent video, “The Science Behind Why Some People Don’t Believe In Climate Science,” Hanson uses the work of psychologists and sociologists to give several reasons why some people might not believe in global warming or that it isn’t something that needs immediate action.

Citing the work of psychologist Daniel Gilbert, Hanson explains, “Climate change is a gradual, impersonal thing that always seems to live in the future.” For example, you can’t just show a climate skeptic images of disappearing coastlines in remote regions when they’re freezing underneath piles of blankets. “When we’re faced with uncertain threats about things we might lose in the distant future, our brain will invent all kinds of excuses not to act on them today,” Hanson adds.

MORE: Watch What a Climate Change Debate Should Really Look Like

Additionally, he says that constant images of hurricanes and wild fires in the news are just making us apathetic to climate change: “Thanks to today’s hyperbole infused media, we’re almost numb or indifferent to anything that isn’t about to literally kill us.”

Psychologists Patricia Linville and Gregory Fischer have also argued that humans have a finite pool of worry (i.e. family, money, work, health, economy) and climate change isn’t allowed in the water, Hanson says.

As humans, our mode of thought is carved by our social groups, whether it’s down to a certain political party, religious organization or by our families. That means, as Hanson says, if your social group doesn’t believe in climate change, you risk being an outsider if you do believe in climate change.

So keep all this in mind the next time you find yourself in a heated debate about climate change.

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DON’T MISS: 5 Very Simple, Practical Things You Can Do to Curb Climate Change

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