The effects of climate change are already visible in many places, researchers say. However, most people do not see the need for action. Why is that? Psychologists know the answer.
On climate change, excited “deny” the word (in English “denial”) tempers. So it rained at the American author Kari Norgaard masse Drohmails of climate skeptics, when she published the book “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life.”
This involves the psychologist from the University of Oregon not about the small minority who denies that a human-influenced climate change is happening. What Norgaard rather interested, are the reasons why not to implement the vast majority of the population in industrialized countries that do not provide the findings of climate science in question, the knowledge still in everyday life.
“How can that be? We know so much about the urgency of the problems of climate change. But if you look around, you get the impression that either no one knows anything or it interests anyone,” Norgaard said in an interview with DW at one of the University of the Arctic organized event in Norway Tromso. It speaks of an “incredible gap between the moral, social and environmental crisis and a broad understanding of the urgent need to do something about it.”
Visible but not perceived?
The U.S. researcher spent ten months in a community in the north of Norway, so in a country where much newspaper is read, the people are politically active and climate change is not in doubt.
She lived there a very warm winter, when the snow came two months later than usual, with consequences for the important branches of agriculture and tourism. Nevertheless, it was for the issue of climate change in the social and political life “invisible”. Although the media reported on a correlation between the warm winter and global warming, there were no responses.
Norgaard describes this as “socially organized denial”: Although people are informed of the results of climate research, they do not bring this knowledge with their political, social and private life in connection. This is typical of the way the consumers in wealthy industrialized countries, with global warming. Even in their home country, the United States, suffered some regions already under climate change with disadvantages for the economy. But no one wanted to accept that this was linked to their own lifestyle and unpleasant behavior change requires.
“People first, have anxiety about the world and its future. Secondly, they feel guilty because they know that our high quality of life, based on the use of fossil fuels, is directly connected with the problem. Additionally there is a feeling of helplessness, because the problem seems so huge and does not respond to politics. ”
People prefer to live as they had the worrying information about the non-climate change, says the psychologist. She compares this behavior with psychological findings about the reasons why many people ignored the Holocaust or the use of the atomic bomb during World War II. They try to protect themselves by, go unpleasant facts and the need to do something out of the way.
Per Espen Stoknes is a psychologist at the “Center for Climate Strategy” of the “Norwegian Business Institute” NBI. The communication of climate science have left such psych logical defense mechanisms except eight, he explained in an interview with DW. “It has long assumed that the facts would be sufficient alone But there are psychological barriers that prevent you from what us the Science tells really takes. That has underestimated until now. ”
Climate change is perceived as something far away, so Stoknes. On the one hand, a prediction of the IPCC for the year 2100 was temporally far away. Melting ice in the Arctic or a Meeresspiegelansteig in Bangladesh or the Maldives again appeared geographically out of reach.
The more we know about climate change, the less seems to be the concern about its impact, says Stoknes. He cites surveys in Norway: “Today only see four out of ten respondents to climate change as a problem.”
While 97 percent of climate scientists was agreement about the existence of climate change, the public had the impression that there were only 55 percent. The publicity on climate change called the Norwegian psychologist as “the greatest Kommunikationsgau all time”. The scientists would have less present and intensified engage in a dialogue.
The media also played a role: “We know that around 85 percent of all media reports on climate are more disaster reports, we also know that this means that people avoid the subject..” We Also suppose the extent of climate reporting from around the globe, says media and climate researcher Elisabeth Eide of the University of Bergen. She speaks of “climate fatigue” in society and in the media.
How do you get people to change their behavior?
If the researchers are right and the lack of use is more psychologically motivated for Climate Protection, the problem also needs psychological solutions. “We have to get away from negativity and disasters and workable solutions make it attractive,” says Stoknes.
Also Norgaard argues for positive examples. Green behavior should be normal in society, proposes psychologist Stoknes. He is also thinking about online campaigns, where people register their energy savings and compare them with those of their neighbors. Environmental and climate-friendly solutions such as double-sided printing in photocopying or energy-saving appliances should be the Erstoptionen.
If you could make it, that the people would not be overwhelmed and paralyzed by disaster scenarios, and one “green economy” could show as an attractive option for the future to them the possibilities, one would the “denying emotional need” simply no longer trigger, which itself is Stoknes sure.