2011-01-18 10:02:40The ingenious ways we avoid believing in climate change - 3 videos
John Cook


Part One: Risk, Belief and Attention.
I argue that we do not feel threatened by climate change because it is almost perfectly constructed to bypass our innate capacity to evaluate risk. For this reason I suggest that the raw information and evidence is unlikely to persuade us and actual belief will need to be socially constructed. I argue that the way that we are socially negotiating climate change has some unsettling similarities to the way that we have historically denied human rights abuses- in particular the ways that we define climate change as being outside the area of legitimate social concern.

Part Two: Stories
I argue that we mediate information about climate change in a social context and make sense of it through constructed narratives or storylines.
These storylines have been under a constant state of change since the 1980s (and earlier). I argue that a historical and ideological convenience led to climate change being defined as an ‘environmental problem’ and that many of the metaphors and images we associate with it follow this definition which arbitrarily restricts the resonance of the issue. As evidence I discuss why the websites of human rights organisations give more attention to ice cream than to climate change.

Part Three- Evasion Strategies
In part three, drawing on the social attitudes research, I look in detail at a range of the specific strategies that people adopt to avoid dealing with climate change. These include:
Distancing – defining climate change as far away, in the future or someone else’s problem.
Compartmentalising – finding ways to resolve the dissonance between highly polluting personal behaviour and knowledge of its impacts.
Positive Framing – how we seek to turn climate change into a personal advantage.
Ethical Offsets – how we adopt the easiest behaviours as proof of our virtue.
Cynicism- the commercial appropriation of climate change images.
What happens next? - surprisingly – what happens next