by Judith Curry
Sociologists and journalists are writing articles about understanding AGW skepticism and denialism. This latest article from Nature makes me think somebody needs to study these people who think that:
Study 2 examined whether framing climate change action in these ways (increasing interpersonal warmth and societal development) may be a more effective approach for motivating action in deniers than the more traditional focus on the reality and risks of climate change.
Here is the abstract for the Nature Climate Change paper:
Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers
Paul Bain, Matthew Hornsey, Renata Bongiorno, Carla Jeffries
Abstract. A sizeable (and growing) proportion of the public in Western democracies deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change. It is commonly assumed that convincing deniers that climate change is real is necessary for them to act pro-environmentally. However, the likelihood of ‘conversion’ using scientific evidence is limited because these attitudes increasingly reflect ideological positions. An alternative approach is to identify outcomes of mitigation efforts that deniers find important. People have strong interests in the welfare of their society, so deniers may act in ways supporting mitigation efforts where they believe these efforts will have positive societal effects. In Study 1, climate change deniers (N=155) intended to act more pro-environmentally where they thought climate change action would create a society where people are more considerate and caring, and where there is greater economic/technological development. Study 2 (N=347) replicated this experimentally, showing that framing climate change action as increasing consideration for others, or improving economic/technological development, led to greater pro-environmental action intentions than a frame emphasizing avoiding the risks of climate change. To motivate deniers’ pro-environmental actions, communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society, rather than focusing on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.
Keith Kloor’s reaction
Over at Collide-a-Scape, Keith Kloor writes:
But the way the authors go about it–by using the loaded “deniers” term as a catch-all reference–is akin to a public health expert slapping this title on a study: “Promoting a healthy diet for fatsos.” And then characterizing overweight individuals as “fatsos” all through the paper.
So far, reaction from climate scientists ranges from puzzlement to consternation. On Twitter, Doug McNeall, a climate researcher at the UK’s Met office, wondered if the paper “was actively courting controversy” and added:
I struggle to believe that the authors don’t know the impact of the word ‘denier’, given the subject matter.
Richard Betts, a fellow Met Office climate scientist, chimed in:
“Denier” is an unnecessarily inflammatory label, and only causes distraction by getting people worked up. Bad move.
Unsurprisingly, climate skeptics are worked up over the Nature paper. Bishop Hill writes:
it certainly looks as if the authors intended to generate offence and controversy rather than truth and light. Hilariously, the authors are writing about how to convert people to the green cause!
Indeed, the irony is hard to miss.
JC comment: I view this pretty much as the green equivalent of the unabomber billboard. I find this kind of stuff in a high impact journal to be offensive: what was Nature Climate Change thinking when they published this?
Somebody needs to research the sociology and psychology of people that insist that anyone that does not accept AGW as a rationale for massive CO2 mitigation efforts is a “denier.” The complexity of skepticism (ranging from multiple aspects of the science, to the impacts that can be attributable to AGW and whether or not they are “dangerous” to the policies proposed for CO2 mitigation) seems to be completely missed by all of the “scholars” writing articles about ‘deniers’. The argued point “A sizeable (and growing) proportion of the public in Western democracies deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change” should provide a clue to these people that something is fundamentally wrong with their thinking.
So ‘deniers’, tell me: will “increasing interpersonal warmth and societal development” work for you?