PEOPLE BEHAVE IRRATIONALLY TOWARDS CLIMATE CHANGE –Whatcanwedo? Marta Cullberg Weston
Climatechange poses a real threat to our world Still peopledo not react… One problem…for a long time the wrongconcept: ”global warming” whichpeople read literally…instead it can be all sorts of erraticweatherpatterns as part of climatechange Draughts, forestfires, flooding, storms …
In the western world mostpeople ”know” aboutclimatechange butwe still do not act on our information It is not more arguments that solves the problem It is a question of how information needs to be framed to reachpeople and make themact. You have to get at people´s emotions to make themchangetheirattitude– but not just scarethem!
Human fear system is not adapted to modern world threats Our ”oldbrain” reacts to immediatethreats Wild animal =Action now--adrenalinflows
The threat from climatechange is hard for humans to handle • Diffuse /invisble /in the future/ distant (If CO2hadcolorwemighthave solved the problem already) • Not oneclear action that solves the problem
Success story:Threat to ozonelayer • Quick response from lawmakers • Simple identifyabletargets --- To combatclimatechangeweneedmore diverse actions …somechallengeourbasicbeliefs (not leasteconomicones) Butmaybeoneway is to attack one ”enemy”/problem at a time to get started? Bill McKibben 350.com suggest oilcompanies
A threatwithout a clear solution (like climatechange) gives rise to unnerving feelings wewant to avoid • Fear/anxiety • Powerlessness/helplessness • Guilt…(that we are responsible)
Humans have an array of different denialmechanisms to avoidunpleasant feelings and the information that cause them
Humans are not alwaysrational! • OSTRICH PATTERNS (repression and denialmechanisms) • COGNITIVE TRAPS that block gooddecisions • SOCIAL TRAPS that lead to unwisedecisions • ECONOMIC TRAPS that make usblindfolded
1. The DenialMechanisms Different ways to shutoureyes (If you put your head in the sand you knowsomething is wrong)
Denialhelpsusdistanceourselves from the threateningreality -- whenwethinkwecannotdoanythingabout it.
Many versions of denial • Breakfast defence–cognitivescan –emotions are dissociated--givespeace for the moment but a bad in the longrun • Diffusion of responsibility/denial of guilt(blamingothers) • Denial of the content of the threat • It is tooimprobable—it just won’thappen! cognitivescan--emotion Denial of the content of the threat al denial
1. The Climaterepressor (Ostrich) ”I changechannels on TV or move on to another page in the newspaperifthere is a program or an articleaboutclimatechange.” Protectsus from anxietyshort term. Does not address the problem…so it adds up
2.The climate ”comfortable” ”This is not a problem I have to worryabout—nature has solved thingsbefore…andnow the scientists willtakecare of the problem!” Denies the content of the threat
American journalist/researcher John Krosnic: ”People stoppedpayingattention to global climatechangewhentheyrealized that there is no easy solution for it.” Wehate to feelpowerless/vulnerable (wedid as small children— wedo not want it again) so wedeny the threat
Denialleads to whatpsychiatrist Robert J.Liftoncalls The absurdity of the double life ”The Nazi Doctors” We live with a disconnectbetween abstract information aboutclimatechange and howwe live ourdailylives
To bypassdenialmechanisms information needs to target emotionsand provide solutions— butalsogivehope • Throwing arguments at peopledoes not changetheirviews.. • Psycholgy professor Timothy Wilson: ”Stories are morepowerfulthan data.”
Todays world --Informationoverload • Good at screening messages • Need to reachpeople´s emotions but not scarethemtoomuch • Use new media (the Arabianspring/Obama) • Target specificgroups with your message… • Tell storiestheycanidentify with • Provide solution options
Emotionalcommunication is key Emotions directouractions A lot of emotional information is stored withoutwords in the right brain--rightbraincommunicates in images not in words. That is whyI suggest using images to reachpeople.
Individualdenial is increased by social denialmechanisms To talk aboutclimatechange in certain social situations (like a party) is like swearing in the church. ”Wecannot dig ourselvesinto a depressive hole” A tooasceticdogmacanscaremanypeopleoff… (taking the caraway from people= ”no way”) Better talk aboutelectric cars
Not onlydenialbecause of anxiety-- butresistance to give up ingrewn habits
In order to hold on to our habits • Denial of guilt/responsibility (so blame is not effective) • ”My contribution is negligable!”, ”My neighbor drives hiscar…” • Wewant to keepourgoodself-imagethus pushingblame to others (alsobetweenstates) • Denyreality of limitedresources
Mark Lynas: The whole of Western society is based on denialmechanisms -- i.e. denial of the world´slimitedresources
3. The life-styleaddict • I need my car! Technical research willsolve the problems of climatechange so I need not change or worry. The small things I candowould not amount to anythinganyway… Arguments seldom work. Regulation is oneway.
4.The ClimateDisplacer ”This is not my responsibility. I did not cause this. Letsomeoneelse fix it.” Denial of responsibility/guilt
Weneedregulation to break bad habits • Car tolls • Carbon tax • Gasoline tax • Recycling demands In order to get these in placepoliticiansneed to act.
If you tellpeopletheyhave a role to play in saving the planet there must be an infrastructure to make that contribution -- e.g. recycling facilities electrical outlets for electrical cars
Butalsoincentives • Good public (free) transportation • No tax on electrical cars • TV-serie—whichfamilycan live mostenvironmentallyfriendly • Cleanesttowncompetition
5.The climatecynicalsodeniesguilt/responsibility ”Well, theremight be a change in climate… It is not my fault…Iwant to live my life to itsfullest. The effectswill come after I am gone, so whycare! I am going to live it up!” A counterphobicreaction. Does not want to get in contact with withhis/herfear.
A lot of effects are alreadyhere…dought and forestfires in the US, Lots of rain in Sweden and risk for flooding… • Describe the localchangesthat willaffectpeopleslives—break the abstract spell… it makes peoplemoremotivated • Stories get peopleinterested
Reducingdenialmechanisms The solution is not more information per se---buthow information is given– you have to givehope. Toothreatening information canlead to total denial or apathy (The film Undergången) It canlead to climate depression
6. The ClimateSad or Apathetic: ”I wake up depressedevery morning.It is terrible what is happening. I feelparalyzed!” I just have to forgetabout it to function.”
Thus: Information needs to pointoutways to solve the problems = anxietycontrol and hope The suggestedmeasuresneed to be seen as effective= control of danger Information needs to reachpeoples’ caringemotions…grandchildren… Information needs to be supplemented by regulation and societalmeasures (smoking)
Denialreducingmechanisms • Reduceanxiety by giving suggestions for effective solutions (Bill McKibben) • Use images to get to emotions • Whenpoliticians stop talking and take action (acceptance of the fact) • Higherprice tag on bad habits and incentives • Good rolemodels (politiciansimportant) • Stories • Gains with new life styles • Responsibility for futuregenerations--theirinheritance
Positive change ex: Smoking • Politicianstook action assertively (at last) • Massive information campaigns • Information in schools/youngpeople A problem with climatechange..wedo not want to scare kids intohopelessness/ denial Must givehope
II. COGNITIVE TRAPS = leads to irrationaldecisionmaking in humans Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky et al Many different researchers studyingour cognitivetraps/cognitivebiases/mental errors Five major types of cognitivetraps
1. Fixation at the present = status quo bias a) What has neverhappenedbeforecannothappen! (Jews in the ghetto) b) Problems with distant consequences-- has a hard time to sink in (smoking and cancer) c) Adapt to gradualchanges (the frog) • System fixation (ex. neoliberal capitalism) How to inform to avoid this? Images and more.
7. The status quo defence ” It is just impossible to imagine…wehaveneverseenclimatechange the way the scientists describe. It must be false alarm.”
2. Biaswhenmakinguncertaindecisions • Tendency to underestimate situations with lowprobablility (risk analysisfaulty) • Tendency to forget risks that you lack sufficient information about or diffuse risks ( 2 degreetemperaturechange diffuse ) • Denial of effects that happenfar off in the worldor far off in time Important with concrete information/images/ + linking to local situation (ski race)
3. We are not good at estimatingprobablility People make theirestimate of the futureprobability of a situation based on howwelltheycanperceive it. Changes in climate are hard to show in easilygraspedfacts Important with images+ show what is happening wherepeople live (local information)
8.Climate Change Deniers= CCD:s ”Climatechange has nothing to do with humans! It is all the result of the tilting of the globetowards the sun.” ”Climatechange is a myth” Some offer a ”scientific” theory” and they are so lockedintotheirdenial/their ”scientifictruth” that it is impossible to reachthem. Theyfeelsuperior. Others are misled.
4.We stick to an illusion of havingcontrol a) Sense that humans are in control b) Overestimatingtechnical solutions Informhowwecaninfluence the process = find solutions Technical solutions take time to develop
5. Wehave a tendency to anchordecisions in whatwethink is ”known” a) Nature is seen as an unlimitedresource b) People interpret information so it confirmstheirownideas. Try information about the number of globesneeded to fill the demands of present daylife-style.
How to counteractcognitivebiases Images of glaciers / polar bears Mark Lynas’ 6 degrees — concretizing Environmentalfootprint /number of worlds Reports of consequences for own country/ community+ plans to counteract the problems Action programs for a major sector Tying the world together –”the there” affects ”the here” (environmentalrefugees, food) Show alternative models of buildingsocieties Show how small changes in the economicmodelcanchangethingsaround Changes in the economicmodel is really key
III. SOCIAL TRAPS A situation where a group of peopleact to reach a short term goal that leads to a long term loss for the group. We are actuallyingrained in a social trap right nowacting to preserveour present energyconsuminglife-style– makes it concrete
1.TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS • GarretHardin (1968) • William Forster Lloyd (1833)