Is it any wonder so many people turn their back on climate science?
Who wants to hear – as the World Bank told us today – we’re heading for a four-degree-warmer world, with more heatwave deaths and life-threatening sea-level rise?
The new kid on the climate-change block is the psychology of climate science rejection. Why are so many, faced with so much evidence, so unconvinced?
Confirmation bias is shaping as a strong contender in a wide field. This type of “motivated reasoning” means we favour information that sits well with our values and beliefs, and discount any that contradicts. Cultural leanings, rather than scientific literacy, better predicted climate beliefs in a recent study.
Believing in a world that fits with our values – be it one of wind farms or nuclear power – feels good. Statements that challenge those beliefs – turbines cause illness, nuclear energy is dangerous – disturb the peace. To preserve the pleasant mental state we downgrade the objection.
Everyone is vulnerable to confirmation bias, including scientists – although peer review keeps that mostly in check. But those who reject climate science might just be more prone. Why?