Apr 17

“Climate Change Denial Disorder” (Funny ‘Cause It’s True)

Some people actually believe climate change doesn’t exist. Why is climate change denial so common when almost all scientists agree in its existence?

Among those who wonder this is the popular website Funny or Die.  And they posit, in their own way, that one weird thing we can really believe in is Climate Change Denial Disorder (CCDD). You can watch it below:

Witness (in the clip) a partial list of office holders who have the disorder. Over half of Congressional Republicans question the science behind climate change.

It’s heartening to learn, though, that there’s a simple remedy for this (see end of video).

What’s the real psychology behind climate change denial? Here are just some of the theories:

  • Psychologist Daniel Gilbert: “Gilbert describes four key reasons ranging from the fact that global warming doesn’t take a human form — making it difficult for us to think of it as an enemy — to our brains’ failure to accurately perceive gradual change as opposed to rapid shifts. Climate change has occurred slowly enough for our minds to normalize it, which is precisely what makes it a deadly threat, as Gilbert writes, ‘because it fails to trip the brain’s alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed’.” (Time)
  • Psychologist Robert Gifford: “Gifford lists factors such as limited cognition or ignorance of the problem, ideologies or worldviews that may prevent action, social comparisons with other people and perceived inequity (the ‘Why should we change if X corporation or Y country won’t?’) and the perceived risks of changing our behavior.” (Time)
  • Psychologist Daniel Kahneman: Author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Believes people have too much difficulty believing sacrifices need to be made now in order to prevent undeterminable or inconceivable harm down the line.
  • Margaret Klein (Psychology Today): Your mind can’t grasp the enormity of the situation; and/or you can only intellectualize, not feel the dangers; and/or you feel you’ve done enough on your end already, e.g, recycling.
  • Philosopher Paul Thagard (Psychology Today): “…a natural thinking tendency called motivated inference, in which beliefs are based on people’s goals and emotions rather than on good evidence.” And/or “worry-driven inference avoidance” and/or “processes of social interaction that encourage people to talk and think in some ways rather than others” (Psychology Today).