PEOPLE BEHAVE IRRATIONALLY TOWARDS CLIMATE CHANGE –Whatcanwedo? Marta Cullberg Weston
Edward O. Wilson ”Wehavecreated a Star Warscivilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology. Wetrashabout…and (are) a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”
World Bank report With business as usualwewillend up in a 3-4 degreewarmer world…. For a long time politicianshavesaidthey are planning to keep the warming to 2 degrees But not much has happened… A 3-4 degreewarmer world is notsomethingwewant to live in… (Mark Lynas: ”Sixdegrees”)
Information butpeopledo not react Problem 1= for a long time the wrongconceptwasused: ”global warming” whichpeople read literally…climatechange is a better term as it can be all sorts of erraticweatherpatterns:Draughts, forestfires, flooding, storms … Problem 2: peopledo not understandwhat a 3- 4 degreewarmer world reallymeans…it is not just pleasantlywarm… Problem 3: Psychologicaltraps
In the western world mostpeople ”know” aboutclimatechange butwe still do not act on our information Whatcontributes to this passivity? The mainreason is the human brain… It is not welladapted to handle diffuse threats There are severalpsychologicaltraps
The threat from climatechange is hard for human brains to handle • Diffuse • Invisible-(If CO2 hadcolorwemighthave solved the problem already) • In the future • Distant
The human fear system is not adapted to modern world threats Our ”oldbrain” reacts to immediatethreats Wild animal =Action now--adrenalinflows
Dan Gilbert: Four ”threat”-buttons • Actorbehind the threat • Present threat • Clear actions to avoid the threat • Violates moral codes Climatechangedoes not press thesebuttons
Weneed to understand the challengesourbrain poses when it comes to acting on the threat from climatechange I willoutline 4 different kinds of challenges
Humans are not alwaysrational! • DENIAL = PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAPS • COGNITIVE TRAPS that block gooddecisionmaking • 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)
Many versions of denial • Breakfast defence–cognitivescan –emotions are dissociated--givespeace for the moment but is 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
Humans have different denialmechanisms to avoidanxiety Denialhelpsusdistanceourselves from a threateningreality -- whenwethinkwecannotdoanythingabout it /whenwefeelhelpless.
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…maladaptive
2.The climate ”comfortable” ”This is not a problem I worryabout—nature has solved thingsbefore…andnow the scientists willtakecare of the problem!” Denies the content of the threat
A threatwithout a clear solution (like climatechange) gives rise to unnerving feelings wewant to avoid • Fear/anxiety • Powerlessness/helplessness • Guilt…(that we are responsible)
American researcher John Krosnic: ”People stoppedpayingattention to 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 We live with a disconnectbetween abstract information aboutclimatechange and howwe live ourdailylives
Wetend to choose a reassuring lie over Gore´sInconvenienttruth
Success story:Threat to ozonelayer • Quick response from lawmakers • Simple identifyabletargets --- Unfortunately to combatclimatechangeweneedmore diverse actions … Butmaybeoneway is to attack one ”enemy” /problem at a time to get started? Bill McKibben (350.com) suggests oilcompanies
To bypassdenialmechanisms information needs to target emotionsand provide solutions— • Throwing arguments at peopledoes not changetheirviews • Threatsshould not be presentedwithoutgivinghope = show that solutions are possible • Psychology professor Timothy Wilson: ”Stories are morepowerfulthan data.”
To get beyonddenial • Weneed to reachpeople´s emotions withoutscaringthemtoomuch • Use new media (the Arabianspring/Obama) • Target specificgroups with ourmessage… • Tell storiespeoplecanidentify with • Describelocalchangesthat willaffectpeople’slives—break the abstract spell… • Provide options to solve the problem
Emotionalcommunication is key Emotions directouractions A lot of emotional information is stored withoutwords in the right brain--rightbraincommunicates in images not in words. SoI 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. So wedo not talk aboutit…pretend it does not exist - weneed to change that norm.
Not onlydenialbecause of anxiety-- butresistance to give up ingrewnhabits/perks
In order to hold on to our habits • Denial of guilt/responsibility ”My contribution is negligable!”, ”My neighbor drives hiscar…” Wewant to keepourgoodself-image so we push the blame to others (alsobetweenstates)
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 my way of life. The small things I candowould not amount to anythinganyway… Arguments seldom work here. Regulation is onewaywhen it comes to life styleresistance.
Weneedregulation to break life style habits • Car tolls • Carbon tax • Gasoline tax • Recycling demands In order to get these in placepoliticiansneed to act.
Incentives are alsoimportant • Good public (free) transportation • No tax on electrical cars • TV-serie—whichfamilycan live mostenvironmentallyfriendly • Cleanesttowncompetition
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 Againdepends on the politicians
4.The climatecynicdeniesguilt/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.
Reducingdenialmechanisms Be careful not just to load it on with scaryfacts Toothreatening information canlead to total denial or apathy (The film Undergången)
5. The ClimateSad/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 = to alleviateanxiety and givehope The measuressuggestedneed to be seen as effective= control of danger Information needs to reachpeoples’ caringemotions…grandchildren… Information needs to be supplemented by regulation
Denialreducingmechanisms • Reduceanxiety by giving suggestions for effective solutions • Use images to get to emotions • Whenpoliticians stop talking and take action (acceptance of the fact) peopletakenotice • Higherprice tag on bad habits and incentives • Good rolemodels (politiciansimportant) • Stories • Show gains with new life styles • Responsibility for future generations– it is theirinheritancewespoil
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 Must givehopewhenweinformabout the threat
II. COGNITIVE TRAPS = leads to Irrationaldecisionmaking in humans Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky et al Many different researchers studyingour cognitivetraps/thinkingerrors Four major types of thinkingerrors
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,cancer) c) Weadapt to gradualchanges (the frog) • System fixation (ex. neoliberal capitalism) How to inform to avoid this? Images and more.
6. The status quo defence ” It is just impossible …wehaveneverseenclimatechange in human history the way the scientists describe. It must be false.”
2. Biaswhenmakinguncertaindecisions • Tendency to forget risks that we lack sufficient information about or diffuse risks ( what a 2/3/4 degreetemperaturechangemeans is 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 stick to an illusion of havingcontrol a) Sense that humans are in control b) Overestimatingtechnical solutions Information that technical solutions take time to developbutthere is hope… solar fuel…anow less expensivepossibility
4. Wehave a tendency to anchordecisions in whatwethink is ”known” a) Nature is seen as an unlimitedresource b) People interpret information so it confirmstheirownideas. Try informingabout the number of globesneeded to fill the demands of present daylife-style.