The 'Weepy Bill McKibben Effect': Study links Emotionalism and Global Warming

This is something we’ve known about for quite some time, but it is nice to see it quantified. For those who don’t know about the “Weepy Bill McKibben Effect” or the founder of, here is a good primer.

But my tears started before anyone said a word. As the service started, dozens choristers from around the world carried three things down the aisle and to the altar: pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures; stones uncovered by retreating glaciers; and small, shriveled ears of corn from drought-stricken parts of Africa.

This study helps explain this emotionalism.

The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition

Nicholas Smith1,* and Anthony Leiserowitz

Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming. This article extends this literature by exploring the separate influence of discrete emotions. Utilizing a nationally representative survey in the United States, this study found that discrete emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy support than cultural worldviews, negative affect, image associations, or sociodemographic variables. In particular, worry, interest, and hope were strongly associated with increased policy support. The results contribute to experiential theories of risk information processing and suggest that discrete emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. Implications for climate change communication are also discussed.


In summary, this research found that discrete emotions—especially worry, interest, and hope—appear to have a large influence on American climate change policy preferences. The challenge for communication strategists is how best to cue these powerful motivations to promote public engagement with climate change solutions.

Translation: they need more weepy Bill types to get action they desire, because the climate rationalists of the world just aren’t buying the emotional hype.

The paper is open access, read it here:


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August 6, 2014 1:16 am

Emotionalism is a major factor in people’s assessment of risk. Which is why people are in general so bad at assessing risk. When I got onto a flight into Washington shortly after 9/11 nearly everyone called me ‘crazy’. There was no point explaining to people that this was now the safest form of transport imaginable under the circumstances or that terrorists would most likely hit a train or some other less expected target. So you just shrug and get on the flight.

August 6, 2014 1:19 am

” ……. CO2 as a pollutant…. ”
“…..Polar Bears dying as sea ice melts ……”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
And who has paid for all this stuff?

Keith Willshaw
August 6, 2014 1:21 am

They missed two major responses that are increasingly coming to the fore
Boredom & Skepticism

August 6, 2014 1:25 am

Much “emotionalism” at Copenhagen was frustration at the limousine shortage. Really. They had a limo crisis.
I guess when you need “dozens of chorister from around the world” to carry a few trays you’re going to run into such problems.

August 6, 2014 1:40 am

Global warming is for sissies

August 6, 2014 1:48 am

Yes indeed. But emotions are not as valid as facts in this matter. Eventually the truth will out.
I have to say I am a little exasperated by Bill’s article. It sure explains why some people think Christians are gullible.

August 6, 2014 2:03 am

AAH! “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”, & I hope Bill McKibben et al have jolly goo memories as they’re all gonna get unstuck if the don’t!!

Harry Passfield
August 6, 2014 2:06 am

Weeping emotionalism? I know the feeling well: I weep as I fill my car with ever more expensive fuel – made more expensive by tax and duty, not by oil companies; I weep when I have to pay an ever more expensive gas and electric bill because my UK Gov is so in thrall to the wind and solar subsidy farmers; I weep that our children are being brain-washed in a program that could not be bettered if it were delivered in North Korea; and I weep when I read that my taxes support and keep in employment the likes of Phil Jones and the UK Met Office (to name but two).
Excuse me while I go and lie down in a darkened room for a bit. Sniff, sniff.

August 6, 2014 2:06 am

Wept? I shrieked with laughter then had a little lie down when I remembered some people take this (and him) seriously.

D. Cohen
August 6, 2014 2:09 am

It’s another step in the evolution of environmentalism into an out and out religion. This sounds for all the world like an old fashioned evangelical church service. Do the attendees come forward to confess their sins — not eating organic, leaving the lights on after dark, giving too little money to the cause, raising children to waste more of the earth’s finite resources ???? If they make that last activity a sin, the church will have trouble maintaining its membership as the original set of worshipers age ….

August 6, 2014 2:11 am

Fortunes are made by appealing to emotions. Emotions don’t need facts. Emotions don’t need measurements. Emotions don’t need repeatable experiments. Emotions just need stimuli. Like fear. AGW appeals to fear. And also to self hatred. And to the desire to control others. AGW does not need facts. Facts just get in the way… The gullibility of emotional people is an infinitely renewable resource. Drill, baby, drill….

August 6, 2014 2:14 am

…. suggest that discrete emotions play ….
Words are discrete.
Emotions are continuous and multidimensional and poorly described by words.

August 6, 2014 2:17 am


Harry Passfield
August 6, 2014 2:38 am

The research may have found “discrete emotions” but one could hardly accuse McKibben of having ‘discreet’ emotions.

August 6, 2014 2:38 am

Crybaby drama queen, he is. These unbalanced types need to be laughed at, but…….
A very disturbing aspect of enviro-climate alarmism is how it’s affecting our children. Being indoctrinated by the constant fear mongering and told their that their parents (and thus themselves) are responsible for earth’s enviro-climate destruction is causing psychological/emotional issues for kids. There are studies pointing this out. It amounts to child abuse on a large scale. Alarmists never mention this side effect of their lying and the fact that Al Gore’s movies/books were part of school curriculum’s before sober folks convinced the schools they were forcing trash on the kids displays alarmists misanthropic side, uncaring they’re scaring kids-considering the results to be just collateral damage or important for molding future generations.

August 6, 2014 2:54 am

I feel this is appropriate…..

Alan the Brit
August 6, 2014 3:04 am

Harry Passfield says:
August 6, 2014 at 2:06 am
Very well said Harry!
I personally find it extremely offensive that young people are being so manipulated using psychological techniques developed by the Nazis to further their own cause! I also believe that Jesus would have disapproved of such manipulation & control of the people by the Church!!!! Hang about, isn’t that what the HRCC used to do anyway?

M Courtney
August 6, 2014 3:23 am

So how do you fight emotional arguments?
1 Calmly speak sense until they blow themselves out.
2 Ennui, wait for the thrill of fear to die out.
3 Laughter.
Any other ideas?

August 6, 2014 3:32 am

I have worked as an expert witness in commercial cases for years. One of the first things taught me was that if “you do not have the facts on your side, baffle ’em with bulls**t.” In other words, no facts… use emotion. Emotional arguments are highly manipulative to their audience as we have seen for years.

Peter Miller
August 6, 2014 3:35 am

One of the only pieces of parenting advice I give is about dealing with toddlers’ tantrums.
Never give in to the tantrums, as this just leads to more and more tantrums getting ever stronger, instead just laugh and laugh and point your finger at the tantrum thrower.
This method usually limits the number of tantrums per child to a maximum of three.
Weepy BS, like McKibben’s, is similar to a toddler’s tantrum and rightly deserves only ridicule and derision. Eventually, the McKibben, just like the toddler, will learn to behave.

August 6, 2014 3:46 am

Bottomline: it’s wrong to feel bad about bad things.

August 6, 2014 3:47 am

“Much “emotionalism” at Copenhagen was frustration at the limousine shortage. Really. They had a limo crisis.”
There was a certain dearth of accessible ladies too. Which of course made the limo crises even worse; these things go together. Hot chicks and fast cars. Basic accessories for many a climate politician.

Ed Zuiderwijk
August 6, 2014 3:49 am

Emotion as a tool of policy making has been tried and tested. Particularly good at it was a certain Austrian who became Chancellor in 1933. We know where it leads.

August 6, 2014 4:11 am

I see a “chicken or the egg” situation. Liberals lead from the heart instead of the head, and they tend to support AGW more. So is the study merely affirming that the left is more prone to it because they are more emotional? Or is it the simple fact that the left has adopted the cause because of the overbearance of government entailed with every proposed solution?

August 6, 2014 4:23 am

emotional? me?
well yeah raging anger at the utter bullshit we who arent the malleable sheeple, have to put up with every damned day!
on a good day I laugh at em.
on a bad day I would like to kick ass so hard their noses bleed.

August 6, 2014 4:34 am

Quoth Smith & Leiserowitz:

Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming.

Let us emphasize: the principal motivating force among what have in modern times come to be called “Liberals” (always taking care to mark these vermin as different from the liberals of the 19th Century, when the term came into currency as denoting people who sought to protect individual human rights against the malfeasances of government thugs) has been feelings rather than lucidly reasoned consideration of facts objectively observed and honestly reported.
Not that those called “conservatives” today (particularly the neo-cons) are much to be distinguished therefrom, for their principal impetus appears to fall under the heading of emotions focused more in the form of identifiable neuroses, including xenophobia, agoraphobia (in the strict sense that they dread the “unregulated” operation of a freely-functioning market economy every bit as much as do their “Liberal” nominal opponents), neophobia, etc.
The appeal to reason seems to fall with effect only upon the ears of those who (knowing it or not) are libertarians.

“A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor will a libertarian advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else.
“Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.

L. Neil Smith

August 6, 2014 4:41 am

Attempt to have a rational conversation with a CAGW Alarmist and you’ll quickly see the emotionalism along with virtually all of the logical fallacies flow from that person.
“…pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures;…”
Is there such a thing?
Maybe “pieces of dead coral supposedly bleached by hot ocean temperatures”.

Mike McMillan
August 6, 2014 4:53 am


August 6, 2014 4:58 am

Yup, and McKibben’s crying all the way to the bank and into his bags of money. Crocodile tears.

Jeff L
August 6, 2014 5:12 am

CAGW is driven by emotion.
Skeptics are driven by science.
Who are you going to put your faith in?

August 6, 2014 5:24 am

Since Bill is a confessed fraud regarding his heritage, perhaps there is a correlation between fraud and climate obsession as well?

August 6, 2014 5:36 am

A bit, but not very, OT:
A review of Bill’s pal Lew.

August 6, 2014 5:37 am

Yup, quite hard to read weepy Bill’s account of his emotions as he unselfishly reflected on his worldly travels to help save the world from things like …. well, worldly travellers I suppose.
My feelings gathered in the pit of my stomach as my own inner emotional child started to take control. But then I considered that bleached coral, those glaciated pebbles, and those husks of corn. Those bells tolling around the world. And I thought to myself: what a load of garbage.

August 6, 2014 5:54 am

Crichton had it right: “State of Fear”. Stop scaring children. Stop infantilizing people.

Bruce Cobb
August 6, 2014 6:00 am

The bizarre thing is that carbon cultists wear their “we must save the planet” emotions like a badge of honor. McKibben’s “confession” about having cried was actually a boast. He was saying, “look at me, I’m a full-grown man, and I feel so powerfully about this issue that I cried”. There is an element of passive-aggressiveness as well. The idea is to make people feel ashamed if they do not feel as strongly about it. By extension, skeptics/climate realists must be some kind of evil monsters to not only not feel what they do, but to pooh-pooh all of their claims. It is a useful ploy for them.
Additionally, the True Believers suffer from cognitive dissonance. This allows them to believe that solar and wind power, and all things “green” are good, and that this will not harm them personally or the country economically. It allows them to see the life-giving odorless colorless CO2 as “carbon pollution”, and to equate it with smog. It allows them to believe that our weather is somehow getting worse, and that it’s our fault. It allows them to believe that by buying twisty bulbs, recycling, adding insulation, putting solar panels on their roofs, buying electric or hybrid cars, etc., they are somehow helping to “save the planet”, which assuages the guilt they feel for being alive, and especially for enjoying the advantages of a modern civilization. In fact, it allows them to feel smugness – the “I’m greener than you” feeling.

August 6, 2014 6:27 am

Yale’s Anthony Leiserowitz featured in the following piece i saw recently, which naturally features Katharine Hayhoe as well. it reeks of mind manipulation, rather like the study being discussed in this thread:
26 July: Kansas City Star: Rabbi brings warnings of climate change to Kansas churches
(Rabbi) Rieber has his work cut out for him in a state governed by Sam Brownback — who has blasted Obama administration rules on reducing carbon emissions — and home to the conservative-activist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, much of whose fortunes rest on fossil fuels…
Research scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, as director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, studies the ebb and flow of discourse over environmental changes. He believes the faith-based embrace of the issue is “one of the most exciting things happening in this entire space.”
It moves the discussion, he says, beyond science and polar bears to “a whole different set of values. Not liberal versus conservative, but now moral and religious. … It can engage people in, I think, a particularly deep and powerful way.”…

August 6, 2014 6:47 am

Support a Carbon Tax! 100,000 delusional paranoids can’t be wrong – can they????

Harry Passfield
August 6, 2014 7:15 am

Mike McMillan says August 6, 2014 at 4:53 am
Mike, I’ll see your Jejune and raise you a soi disante (scientist). 🙂

Bloke down the pub
August 6, 2014 7:17 am

It is frustrating to see such badly formulated questionnaires. I could have responded positively to most of their categories without even believing in cagw.

August 6, 2014 7:35 am

Sorta on topic: does even have 350 members?
If not, that may explain some of the weeping by “Weepy Bill.”

August 6, 2014 8:27 am

So veterans of the University of Hard Knocks, have mostly all graduated from the “Emotional Blackmail” Module 101.
We are herd beasts, hence an appeal to the mob and your need to belong, is highly effective.
But it is a function of time, AKA experience.
Having been manipulated for benefit of others, most of us become very sceptical of raw emotional appeals.
This is what makes modern progressives different, they seem to revel in their own gullibility.
It seems they are proud of being controlled, manipulated and abused..and seem to believe those who resist manipulation are somehow antisocial.
So when most are insane, what is sane?
One indicator I use, is the progressive will say;’Look what you made me do”.
And express a total distrust/fear of human nature.

August 6, 2014 8:49 am

Bill McKibben’s credibility is about the same as this guy’s:

Mary Perdue
August 6, 2014 8:51 am

This is the classic logical fallacy of “argumentum ad misericordiam.” The problem with such an argument is that no amount of special pleading can make the false true, or the expensive costless. I wish more people would see through it.

August 6, 2014 9:03 am

Alan the Brit says:
August 6, 2014 at 3:04 am
“I personally find it extremely offensive that young people are being so manipulated using psychological techniques developed by the Nazis ”
They were not developed by the Nazis. Goebbels used the book Propaganda by the American nephew of Siegmund Freud, Edward Bernays, who was advidor of Woodrow Wilson during World War I. The Nazis were modernists and admired America – especially FDR’s America.

August 6, 2014 10:17 am

“stones uncovered by retreating glaciers”
McKibben should stay away from Wisconsin. The vast majority of it consists of land and stones uncovered by retreating glaciers. He would cry himself out of tears.

August 6, 2014 10:39 am

“…pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures;…”
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

Martin Katchen
August 6, 2014 11:27 am

If emotion and affect rule people’s minds, the hardest thing to cultivate is rational skepticism. Perhaps the UN Global Warming proponents are guilty of Type II Error (that an alternative hypothesis explains the facts instead of Type 1 Error (that the null hypothesis is correct and explains the facts ie. that if the clmate does not warm it will remain about the same). And perhaps climate scientists who would disagree with the idea that Global Warming is “settled science” need to explore further the hypothesis that given the MIlanovich Cycle (the shift from Northern Hemisphere winter from perihelion in December to aphelion (Earth farthest from the sun) in June which may have brought on Pleistocene glaciations the alternative to the Earth getting 3-6 degrees warmer may be the Earth getting 10 degrees colder. Why should the hypothesis that the Little Ice Age would have been the start of a major Ice Age if not for humans clearing forests for agriculture during Antiquity and Medieval times be left to science fiction writers such as Steven Baxter (Iron Winter)?
It would certainly increase the worry level of people who do not accept the environmentalist “religion” if they had global cooling as an alternative hypothesis to be concerned about. And as this article shows, worry drives committment; skepticism does not. And global cooling as the alternative to global warming (and an ice age WOULD be a far bigger disaster than anything global warming advocates see as the result of global warming) might even be true.

Reply to  Martin Katchen
August 6, 2014 3:23 pm

At 11:27 AM on 6 August, Martin Katchen had written:

Why should the hypothesis that the Little Ice Age would have been the start of a major Ice Age if not for humans clearing forests for agriculture during Antiquity and Medieval times be left to science fiction writers such as Steven Baxter (Iron Winter)?
It would certainly increase the worry level of people who do not accept the environmentalist “religion” if they had global cooling as an alternative hypothesis to be concerned about.

Indeed, science fiction writers were employing speculation about a Fimbulwinter in their stories, most notably to my recollection in Niven, Pournelle, & Flynn’s novel Fallen Angels (1992), the authors setting their tale in an America where the government, “… dedicated to saving the environment from the evils of technology, had been voted into power because everybody knew that the Green House Effect had to be controlled, whatever the cost. But who would have thought that the cost of ending pollution would include not only total government control of day-to-day life, but the onset of a new Ice Age?”
In this, Dr. Pournelle, Mr. Niven, and Mr. Flynn decided to take as granted the climate catastrophists’ caterwauling about the horrible-evil-nasty puissance of anthropogenic CO2, and stipulated that given the dearth of neutrino flux indicating that the solar cycle was in a hellacious downturn and had been for a longish time, only man-made carbon dioxide had been fending off the march of the glaciers, so that when the screaming religious fanatic ‘viros got their totalitarian FROMATE way, all hell literally froze over….

Ron Tuohimaa
August 6, 2014 11:29 am

Speaking of emotionalism, from his book “Our Choice”, Vanity Fair called the following Gore poem, “equal parts beautiful, evocative and disturbing.”
One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun
Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
I rather prefer the statement made by Fox News host Greg Gutfeld who says, “I call it equal parts “barf, barf and barf.”

David Chappell
August 6, 2014 11:30 am

“…pieces of dead coral bleached by being tossed around on a beach;…”

August 6, 2014 2:09 pm

Ron Tuohimaa,
You meant Fox News’ “Red Eye” host Greg Gutfeld – one of the funniest people on the planet – and fast on his feet.

Mike McMillan
August 6, 2014 2:32 pm

Harry Passfield says: August 6, 2014 at 7:15 am
Mike McMillan says August 6, 2014 at 4:53 am …
Mike, I’ll see your Jejune and raise you a soi disante (scientist). 🙂

Mais, soi-disant est un adjectif composé invariable : il ne prend aucune marque de féminin ni de pluriel. 😉

August 6, 2014 2:41 pm

The French are moving in? There goes the neighborhood …

Eamon Butler
August 6, 2014 3:32 pm

Corals are in great danger from eco-tourists damaging them by taking away chunks as souvenirs.
… And News just in, McKibben’s tears responsible for alarming rise in sea levels.:)

August 6, 2014 4:32 pm

These emotions are driven by the notion that mankind is special, important, holds some significance place, role, purpose in the cosmos. Nope. I first saw this following image in one of my children’s early trivia books and recently on the internet. All 7 billion humans on earth could be stacked inside the confines of the Grand Canyon. Actually, depending on compression, in less than 25% of it. Room to spare. Every one of the 7 billion could be allocated 400 sq ft, (see an example at Ikea) and fit inside the state boundaries of Colorado. That’s not “too many people.” The problem must be something else. The correct answer requires the correct problem.

August 6, 2014 4:33 pm

Remember what P.J. O’Rourke said, the only thing you need to know about climate change is there is nothing we can do about it. Hold the tears!

Joel O'Bryan
August 6, 2014 6:53 pm

The current Global Warming alarmistist Bill McKibben is reincarnation of the lying coward Dr. Smith character from Lost in Space.

August 6, 2014 7:05 pm

Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming.

WTF is “public support for global warming”? They want more?

August 6, 2014 11:30 pm

I just think they are crumbling and their now excuse is to plead for forgiveness for telling a lie. I think our present PM summed it up aptly when he said before election ‘Global warming and climate change is a load of crap!”

August 7, 2014 3:22 am

I cried too, but they were tears of laughter!!

August 8, 2014 10:51 pm

Did he get paid? Crocodile tears if he did. Yes whatever we do, stop pollution, sustainable agriculture, it will not change the climate nor weather.

Brian H
August 13, 2014 7:03 pm

They needed a few positive emotion options: Approval, Satisfaction, Joy, Contentment, Vindication, etc.

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