In the wake of US President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, Victoria University of Wellington professors James Renwick and Marc Wilson talk about the psychology of climate change denial, and whether sceptics can be convinced otherwise.
An excerpt (read in full):
“There’s a very well-documented disinformation campaign,” says Victoria University’s Professor James Renwick, a climate change expert who has written reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Big companies have spent lots of money on lobbyists who tell lies to politicians. It’s still going on. Part of the story is a deliberate attempt by some sectors of the business community to confuse the public. And it’s been pretty successful. There’s been some very high-profile people – such as Donald Trump – who muddy the waters.”
Kiwi researchers have been working to get a grasp on why, when confronted with evidence of climate change, sceptics dig their heels in.
“This is not about the evidence, and it’s not enough for climate scientists to stand up and educate people,” says Professor Marc Wilson, who lectures on the psychology of climate change denial at Victoria University.
He says views on climate change aren’t isolated from an individual’s other beliefs – whether you think tax should go up or down, whether you support gay marriage or the death penalty, or how you feel on the anti-smacking law will all affect your view on climate change.
“When you’re tugging at a particular issue, you’re not just trying to move people’s position on that one issue. You’re actually working against all the other things that it’s glued to. When we go in and we say ‘climate is changing and it’s our fault’, people will only change their belief if it’s consistent with where their beliefs, broadly speaking, are going anyway.”