Do we all suffer from climate change denial?
Climate change denialism is something that applies to more than just diehard non-believers, a University of NSW researcher argues.
The unprecedented bushfire crisis has strengthened demand for government action on climate change and galvanised Australians to take to the streets protesting against the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Some Australians have taken more drastic action, such as actor Yael Stone who gave up the permanent right to work in the US.
But for many people, such action seems unrealistic.
"While we may know it is better for the environment to give up our car for public transport, stop using single-use plastics, or eat less meat — we do not always do all these things all the time," Belinda Xie asserts.
"It’s almost impossible to live with zero impact on the planet, but it’s what we do when we recognise this that matters.”
The UNSW PhD candidate specialises in cognitive science and researches the psychology of climate change.
“It’s important that we acknowledge we are all climate deniers, to some extent, and then understand how and why we reached this point,” Ms Xie said.
“It’s not simply because humans are bad or selfish people: there are a lot of external factors out of our control, such as the information we consume that can encourage denialism, or the way our economy is set up.
“So, we then need to ask ourselves: how do we overcome this denialism – what action can we take as a community and what can government and business do?”
Ms Xie said psychologists’ interest in climate science ramped up when climate scientist James E. Hansen told the US Senate in 1988 that the greenhouse effect had been detected and was changing the climate.
“Climate scientists have been doing their research and communicating it for many decades, but achieving behavioural change has been difficult,” she said.
“So, psychologists have been trying to find out why – for example, psychologists discovered that emotions and shared values, not facts, more easily resonate with people.
“People also feel psychologically distant from climate change: they think it’s not going to happen to them, it’s going to happen in the future, or it's going to happen overseas.”
What do you think? Is everyone that doesn’t take immediate action to address climate change in denial?