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

Candidates face questions on Nanaimo doorsteps about supportive housing and crime

Federal candidates asked about social issues on campaign trail

Review: Polish your language skills with The Foreigner

It’s all gibberish, but Charlie Baker’s personality receives a revamp in Chemainus Theatre production

Art studio takes over former St. Joseph’s School space in Chemainus

Public invited to a grand opening on May 1 to see what’s transpired

Lavigne possesses crooner qualities, to be Frank

Island tour starts this week and concludes in Chemainus with two shows May 11

First Nanaimo-Ladysmith all-candidates’ meeting is tomorrow

Six candidates expected to debate issues Thursday, April 25, at the Beban Park social centre

VIDEO: Large dust devil swirls through town in B.C.’s interior

Residents look on as column climbs about 90 feet into the air

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Second dump site of Dungeness crab discovered in northern B.C.

DFO confident new site related to larger April 2 dump

Northern B.C. high school student reaches 100,000 followers on YouTube

Voice actor, animator, Jericho Fortune has more than 30-million views on his channel GTAGAMER222

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

B.C. woman pleads for people to stop stealing daffodils meant to honour cancer victims

Cynthia Bentley honours memory of those lost to cancer by planting 100 daffodils each year

Canfor temporarily shutting down lumber mills across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment, according to the company

Most Read