by Andy West
Climate change affirmative responses to all survey questions are culturally determined, and across National Publics related to religiousity. Cultural attitudes inappropriately push climate policy.
Post one of this series demonstrated a strong correlation across nations between religiosity, and their responses to unconstrained questions aligned to Catastrophic Climate Change Culture (CCCC), from a YouGov climate-change attitudes survey. The bold-blue series in Chart 1 below shows this, with the muted-pink for a less strong alignment. This expression of belief in CCCC I term Allied Belief (ABel); it’s caused by a (shallow) alliance of CCCC with (all) the main religious Faiths, which disables Innate Skepticism (ISk) of CCCC.
The second post showed that very different results are obtained for climate-change affirmative responses to reality-constrained questions (muted-orange and muted-red series), which across nations anti-correlate with their religiosity. The bold-orange series shows the (estimated) Core Belief (CBel) in CCCC, i.e. from individuals who still grant it top-priority in the presence of ‘ultimate’ constraint. The muted-red trend and red crosses bound this estimate somewhat with actual measurements. Reality clashes re-enable ISk about CCCC for religious people. The second post fully explains all Chart 1 features.
This ‘big picture’ chart is needed to better understand the following sections. All of the questions that produce linear responses with religiosity per above, I term as ‘Strongly-Framed’ questions. But we met some questions in Post 1, such as ‘Do you think that you personally could be doing more to tackle climate change?’, for which (as was confirmed) a linear response for ‘doing more’ wasn’t expected. However, this doesn’t mean such ‘Weakly-Framed’ questions necessarily have no relationship with religiosity; it turns out that they do, but it’s not linear. For clarity, Table 1 towards the end of this post lists which questions are Strongly/Weakly-Framed.
- The Envelope of responses to Weakly-Framed questions
On the above chart, bold-orange to muted-red to muted-orange trends, represent responses to reality-constrained questions of decreasing constraint strength. Imagine a trend a little weaker still than the last in that sequence, so a bit higher up on the Y scale. Bold-blue to muted-pink trends represent responses to unconstrained questions with decreasing emotive / existential alignment to CCCC. Imagine a trend with somewhat weaker alignment still, so less gradient than pink. It seems that responses to Weakly-Framed questions are (in the main) anywhere between these two imagined trendlines, smeared as it were between pink and orange ‘modes’. For example, Chart 2 below show national responses for the ‘could be doing more’ option to the question quoted in Section 1 above.
Note: The superimposed envelope of expected responses (assuming the cultural modality explanation is true) is notional, drawn by using Chart 1 as a guideline for where the imagined trends described above would approximately sit, plus some margin for variability around the trends. In practice, I don’t know their precise positions and even less the legitimate variability of data-points relative to same [albeit the orange variability about trend is a lot larger than pink; I didn’t bother to depict this]. Yet the envelope covers most data, so is at least indicative of potential cause. National publics aren’t climate literate, so it seems unlikely that even where strong reality or strong CCCC alignment isn’t invoked, rationality could get purchase. It appears responses simply drift between the two main culturally-determined modes.
Given I don’t know where the edges of the envelope actually are, it seemed reasonable to speculate that Indonesia and Thailand might be legitimately covered, albeit an implication of noisy data. However, if Chart 2 has any meaning at all this couldn’t possibly be the case for Italy or Spain, which ought to have much lower climate concern scores, consistent with being closer to the low point between the two cones.
These two nations were noted in the last post to have a higher ‘Children’s Strike Weekly’ ranking than initially seemed likely for their religiosity level. For Spain at least, this is probably due to an unusually high religiosity gap between children and adults. Both nations also have very high youth unemployment levels, an open invitation for cultural causes claiming high moral ground, to which youths are more vulnerable. So, when Weakly-Framed questions don’t invoke more potent effects, might irreligious and disaffected youth wield sufficient influence to shift national attitudes? I don’t know. I figured looking at another Weakly-Framed question may help. Affirmative answers to: ‘The climate is changing and human activity is mainly responsible’ (the very first question mentioned in this series), are plotted below. The superimposed pink / orange trends and envelope are the same as on Chart 2 above.
The first thing to note is that this question is slightly more CCCC-aligned than I guessed. There appears to be more grouping around the pink line than the orange, albeit this isn’t quite enough to have broken the smeared / dual-mode pattern. This could mean the true pink line ought to be a little steeper, which in turn means Thailand is possibly within the envelope. However, not only are Spain and Italy clearly outside again (and in similar positions), they’re now joined by Indonesia and India. Interestingly, Indonesia has recently seen a wave of mass youth protests against perceived threats to democracy and liberal values, in a country where conservatism and Islamist elites are gaining more power. Countering with accusations of blasphemy can only help open a religiosity gulf between secular youth and religious elites (very relevant here). The linked article notes regional support and even direct links to youth climate protest, with Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines all named. India has a massive youth demographic, with 50% of its population below the age of 25, and has also featured mass youth protests over recent years. These have now coalesced against the new citizenship laws, but this wave started back in 2016 and is ultimately generic opposition to conservative religious power (this time Hindu), again seen as a perceived threat to liberal values and democracy.
All the nations mentioned in the above paragraph have national religiosity 50% or higher (however much less this is for youth), and are at the upper-edge of or above the envelope in either Chart 2 or Chart 3, or both. It seems something systemic is happening that can’t just be noise and is pretty likely linked to youth protest, but quite what?
If I assume a youth influence, however this works it may be a pointer to the future of the relevant nations, albeit interpreting that future isn’t so easy. It hinges upon what type of youth belief is the driver. Although some would represent an increase of core believers in CCCC, albeit occurring because more potent effects are absent the total belief is high, meaning much is likely Allied Belief. However, not this time through an alliance with religious faiths, but political culture, like the strong alliance between CCCC and Lib/Dem culture within the US. So, at the very least the relevant nations would shift leftwards on Chart 1, but could potentially fall out of the plot altogether if like the US (or Vietnam) a more complex local cultural jigsaw emerges, which needs a targeted analysis.
- A search for Rationality
Interestingly, about half the nations hold a similar position in Chart 2 and 3. This plus the bounded area is enough for a fairish correlation between the two responses (SI Chart F5yx, r=0.68). If we needed another hint that it is not rationality driving affirmative responses to ‘The climate is changing and human activity is mainly responsible’, this is it. As the first post notes, publics can’t possibly give rational responses to the correlating Chart 2 question.
The apparent lack of rationality in the above responses prompted me to hunt for any rationality. I used the same ‘envelope’ charts as above, mapping responses to one of the most objective questions from the main YouGov climate-change attitudes survey. This Weakly-Framed question asks which countries have had the most negative impact on climate-change and, as demonstrated in the first post of the series, responses aren’t linear with religiosity. Answers are available from relatively common and culturally unconflicted knowledge. However, even in this case rationality plays a very modest role, very much second fiddle to cultural influence that occurs via the same two modes as above. Due to word-count limitation, I shunted this analysis to SI Footnote 2.
- Elite attitudes
Similarly to children, another sub-demographic within irreligious nations at the LHS of Chart 1 where core belief in CCCC prospers more than in the general population, is the elite. Even within democracies, small elites can heavily sway policy to a direction not supported by the populace. For instance, the UK, Germany and Scandinavia, all have very strong emissions policies despite per the bold-blue series in Chart 1, having a very high national skepticism of existential climate issues (plus, all nations have very small Core Belief in climate catastrophism). This wouldn’t be a problem if the policies were aligned to mainstream science conclusions. But ultimately, being initiated by an emotive belief in CCCC, they are latterly and inevitably trending towards CCCC goals; i.e. the emergency avoidance of imminent global catastrophe. The easy acceptance of Greta/CSW by secular elites is not a coincidence.
In highly religious countries, much of the influence of elites and the functioning of society is still closely tied to religious expression. Notwithstanding the relatively new (and superficially high, i.e. from ABel) climate concerns, those elites and indeed society generally haven’t to date abandoned this model. Yet in countries where religion has long atrophied over generations, newer culture can more easily muscle into elite layers via the provision of high-moral-ground plus emotive persuasion. Subconsciously, the latter features are extremely desirable as shortcuts for promoting / extending an elite profile (see SI Footnote 3), when exhausted religion no longer supplies this service.
Major XR and CSW presence within irreligious nations (per the last post) are not expressions of what the local publics think, en-masse, but extreme frustration expressed by small minorities because for sure their local publics mostly don’t think like them. In mistakenly assuming such actions reflect popular feeling, and thus compliantly onboarding extreme demands (which also contradict mainstream science), already culturally compromised elites are marching dangerously further and further out of alignment with the mass of their own publics. Tension from such dislocations is already causing some significant backlash (e.g. SI Footnote 4). Highly religious nations are protected from similar extreme policy choices, by the strongly continuing commitment of their elites to much older irrational fairy stories, aka religions.
The expectation is that policy push from elite attitudes would occur most within nations from the LHS of Chart 1, much like XR and CSW presence. This expectation can be checked by looking at the penetration of highly challenging policies (socially or to infra-structure or both) that also have a high virtue-signaling aspect. Whether or not the policies truly provide major benefit to emissions reduction or the environment generally, is not particularly relevant. A suitable such policy is the promotion of Electric Vehicles (EVs).
- Policy push case – EVs
Chart 4, introduced in the last post, represents either of the orange series on Chart 1 (depending on the scale), with many more nations thrown in. The Y scale happens to match estimated CBel, i.e. the original UN poll vote-share for action on climate-change, divided by 6. The blocks a) to d) and the color-coding, emphasize religio-regional groups. Significant variability about the main trend is largely due to GDP-per-Capita (GDPpC) within each religio-regional group.
So, we expect EV policy penetration to largely be dictated by cultural motivation, and hence be highest at the LHS. BUT… this won’t be wholly independent of economic issues; those countries that are motivated for this policy must also have a robust enough economy to create incentives plus charging infra-structure, plus a high enough GDPpC for the local market to afford EVs. Adapted to economic necessity, the above prediction suggests that nations with strong economies (in an absolute sense) plus at the top-leftmost, will have the greatest EV penetration.
The numbers trailing some of the nation labels derive from the Top 18 Electric Car Countries in 2020, showing penetration per nation by market-share of new EV sales. Eleven nations in Chart 4 also appear within that league table; I compressed the ranking into a scale 1 to 11, in order to skip the missing ones. While strict ranking order from top-left isn’t observed, all but one of the ranked nations are indeed at the top-left corner, as expected.
The only exception in that peer-group without a ranking, is the Czech Republic, which has the lowest absolute GDP (45th in IMF list) of the peer group. Conversely, the only nation not in the top-leftmost bunching, is Japan. This nation (in a unique religio-regional group unrelated to the dark blue coding), possess the highest absolute GDP (3rd in IMF list) on the chart. This data reasonably confirms the above expectations from cultural positioning, with secondary economic considerations.
As noted in section 4 of the last post and even in normal times, a huge problem for those governments trying to push this and other challenging policies, is that once the public grasp the reality issues associated with implementation, their support is unlikely to get beyond the thick orange Core Belief line in Chart 1, maybe at the most the muted-red Strongly-Constrained Belief line. Unless for special circumstances, like the immense amounts of hydro-electricity in Norway. And in current times, a huge new reality constraint has appeared in the form of COVID-19, which for a year or two at least will squeeze even the CBel line still further downwards regarding the choice of a true top priority.
- What this series tells us
Assuming findings are confirmed, and that my explanations are the best fit for same.
Affirmative attitudes to climate-change in the public sphere are cultural. As such they’re also the product of net cultural interaction, mainly with wrt the long-established religious faiths. The surface alliance of CCCC with religion creates an impression of faith support, which flips into resistance for any reality- constrained circumstances. Overall, where religiosity is low, climate activism is higher (including child religiosity for child activism), likewise for main policy. A secondary influence in reality-constrained scenarios is GDP-per-Capita. This likely exacerbates a cultural factor, modulating the main religiosity trend. Core Belief and policy-support is lower where GDPpC is lower within any religio-regional group.
Even responses to Weakly-Framed questions appear to mainly be determined by cultural influence, albeit occupying a wide envelope. While prediction from religiosity of climate attitudes inside that envelope is not possible, that they smear between the two main cultural modes is good support itself of the overall cultural explanation. Systemic excursions from the envelope are perhaps due to youth influence; merely a culturally divergent sub-demographic. Even the most objective climate survey question yields very little rationality in responses. Table 1 summarizes findings.
- Some concluding thoughts
While each of the mainstream Faiths is theoretically a separate cultural entity, their relationships with CCCC as presented in this series don’t appear to depend on the particulars of any faith, only on national levels of belief. At least purely in respect of reactions to the newcomer of CCCC, currently, all Faiths appear to act as though they’re part of a single culture. Hence, what the presented charts are showing at heart is the interaction between two major cultures (i.e. religion and CCCC) that have come under each other’s influence.
For an analogy, I’m reminded of those illustrations of two stars falling into each other’s orbit, with the occurrence of complex gravitational and energy interactions. To further this analogy, one a bright young star (CCCC) and the other an old red giant (mainstream religious faith). Except we may know less about the cultural case right here upon Earth than the stellar one millions of light years distant. Stretching the analogy, most people from the relevant social-science disciplines don’t actually recognize a CCCC; it’s kind of ‘invisible’. But like a black hole orbiting the old red giant, we can tell it must be there because behaviors in the region only make sense if two bodies with mass and energy (here, cultural mechanisms) are interacting. Hence a culture (of catastrophe) must be exerting powerful influence within the social domain of climate-change, and interacting with religion.
There are other bodies in this equation, in the US particularly the heavyweights of Rep/Con and Dem/Lib culture, which entangle old religion and new CCCC both (and enough to locally disrupt the global trends shown here; the US has a 4-way cultural dance). Overall though, I’m surprised at just how consistent the entanglement of religiosity and CCCC appears to be, globally. Which also means we can use religiosity as a reliable lens to make the workings of CCCC clearer.
The false narratives of CCCC (all strong cultural narratives are false, their ‘purpose’ requires this) are powerfully affecting nations and faiths of all types across the globe. Over the years, many commenters have articulated in some form that the movement against man-made climate-change is effectively ‘a religion’ in itself. The effects presented here are more confirmation that for the public domain at least, they’re right. Such commenters are intuiting ‘a cultural entity’, where religions happen to be the cultural entities they’re very familiar with. Considering CCCC’s scale, the now generations-long trend, especially within Western societies, of less rule by the emotive and more by rationality, could well go into reverse through this single phenomenon alone. The only thing holding off its irrationalities in many nations, ironically, is religious faith.
Covid-19 Addendum: I’ve seen comment to the effect that Covid-19 is likely to be fatal for catastrophic climate-change culture. My money on this is no better than anyone else’s. But it says that once Covid-19 is in the rear-view mirror, however long that takes, CCCC will still be a serious force. Long evolved bio-cultural mechanisms make cultures tenacious, they can pivot to new circumstances and come back from heavy damage; even turn adverse conditions into advantage (there are already crude attempts, but they’ll get more sophisticated). CCCC’s wagon is hooked to science, which ought to be fatal on its own one day. But I doubt that day is here. For guidance, the major faiths span a millennial scale and survived the Black Death plus many more real-world calamities, their fairy-tale fears plus hopes still intact. This doesn’t mean the little secular sister of CCCC necessarily has similar staying power, but ultimately, it works on the same underlying mechanisms.
There are 3 posts in this series, all of which have the same style of Supplementary Information, which consist: 1) an expanded post, 2) a footnotes file, and 3) an Excel datafile. The text below is a streamlined post version, geared to get the concepts across more readily and uncluttered regarding side-issues, detail on methodology, intricate depth, path my exploration took etc. For folks who want more, the expanded post is ~4800 words. Be aware that the footnotes file, also having various external references, relates to the expanded post (though a couple are pointed at below). Likewise, all the chart IDs within the Excel datafile are numbered for the expanded post. However, all sources / data for the charts below can easily be found (I provided SI IDs in the text). The datafile includes various extra charts too.
Footnotes [Footnotes ]
Extended post [ Extended Post]