According to a new study, we are more likely to be skeptical about climate change, if we are worried about paying our living expenses.
Skepticism about climate change may be linked to concerns about economy
Americans dismiss scientific evidence of climate change despite education efforts, study finds
WASHINGTON — Americans may be more likely to accept the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change and its potentially devastating effects if they believe the economy is strong and stable, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
The findings may help explain why many Americans haven’t been swayed by public education and advocacy efforts indicating that climate change is being caused by humans. People who are concerned about the economy and who are strong supporters of the free market system may be more skeptical about climate change and downplay its potential effects, the study found. The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General®.
“The problem isn’t primarily ignorance about this issue,” said lead researcher Erin Hennes, PhD, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. “Even when people are exposed to the same information, their attitudes about climate change may be polarized because they perceive the information in different ways.”
The vast majority of climate researchers and many scientific societies, government agencies and intergovernmental organizations have concluded that human-caused climate change is a real threat. However, only half of Americans believe human-caused climate change is real, ranging from 10 percent of conservative Republicans to 78 percent of liberal Democrats.
Hennes and her fellow researchers were inspired to study this issue after noticing that belief in human-caused climate change dropped by 11 percent in the United States during the major recession from 2007 to 2009.
Motivated Recall in the Service of the Economic System: The Case of Anthropogenic Climate Change
The contemporary political landscape is characterized by numerous divisive issues. Unlike many other issues, however, much of the disagreement about climate change centers not on how best to take action to address the problem, but on whether the problem exists at all. Psychological studies indicate that, to the extent that sustainability initiatives are seen as threatening to the socioeconomic system, individuals may downplay environmental problems in order to defend and protect the status quo. In the current research, participants were presented with scientific information about climate change and later asked to recall details of what they had learned. Individuals who were experimentally induced (Study 1) or dispositionally inclined (Studies 2 and 3) to justify the economic system misremembered the evidence to be less serious, and this was associated with increased skepticism. However, when high system justifiers were led to believe that the economy was in a recovery, they recalled climate change information to be more serious than did those assigned to a control condition. When low system justifiers were led to believe that the economy was in recession, they recalled the information to be less serious (Study 3). These findings suggest that because system justification can impact information processing, simply providing the public with scientific evidence may be insufficient to inspire action to mitigate climate change. However, linking environmental information to statements about the strength of the economic system may satiate system justification needs and break the psychological link between proenvironmental initiatives and economic risk.
Studies like this make me optimistic about the future.
Greens frequently attack democracy and democratic choice, in my opinion because they are well aware whenever democratic governments genuinely attempt to introduce the economically damaging climate policies they demand, popular support for green politics collapses.
As long as we retain our ability vote out politicians who mess up the economy, there will be a limit to the amount of damage green demagogues can do to our quality of life.