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How a thinking mistake leads individuals to be prone to denying climate change


These two charts have the same shape: a long-term trend of major increase where there are short-term fluctuations. CC BY-ND

Cold spells often cause climate change deniers to come out aggressively on social media, using hashtags like #ClimateHoax and #ClimateScam. Former President Donald Trump often chimes in, claims over and over again That every cold wave refute the existence of global warming.

From a scientific standpoint, these refutation claims are absurd. The vicissitudes of the weather are irrefutable obvious Long-term trends in climate.

However many people believe these claims, the political result is a decreased willingness to take action to mitigate climate change.

Why are so many people vulnerable to this kind of misinformation? my fieldpsychology, can help explain — and help people avoid being misled.

The attraction of black and white thinking

A close examination of the arguments advanced by climate change deniers reveals the same mistake made over and over again. This error is the cognitive error known as black and white thinking, also called dichotomous thinking and all-or-nothing thinking. As I explain in my bookFind GoldilocksBlack and white thinking is a source of dysfunction in mental health, relationships, and politics.

People are often susceptible to it because in many areas of life, dichotomous thinking does something useful: it simplifies the world.

Binaries are easy to work with because there are only two possibilities to consider. When people are faced with a range of possibilities and nuances, they have to put in more mental effort. But when this spectrum is polarized into pairs of opposites, the choices are clear and dramatic.

This mental labor-saving device is practical in many everyday situations, but it’s a poor tool for understanding complex realities–and the climate is complex.

Sometimes people divide the spectrum in unequal ways, with one side being much larger than the other. For example, idealists often rate their work as either perfect or unsatisfactory, so even good and very good results are grouped with the poor in the unsatisfactory category. In dichotomous thinking like this, a single exception can tip a person’s view to one side. It’s like a pass/fail grade system where 100% gets a pass and everything else gets an F.

Senator James Inhofe brought a snow globe to the Senate floor in February 2015 to argue that because it was cold enough to snow in Washington, D.C., climate change wasn’t real. That year became the hottest on record and has been surpassed ever since.

With a rating system like this, it’s not surprising that opponents of climate action find ways to dismiss global warming research, despite the overwhelming evidence.

Here’s how they do it:

An all-or-nothing problem

Climate change deniers simplify the spectrum of potential scientific consensus into two categories: 100% agreement or no consensus at all. If it is not one, then it is the other.

A 2021 review of thousands of climate science papers and conference proceedings concluded that more than 99% of studies found this combustion Fossil fuels warm the planet. This is not good enough for some skeptics. If they find a dissenting scientist somewhere, they classify the idea of ​​human-caused global warming as controversial and We conclude that there is no basis for action.

Powerful economic interests are at work here: the fossil fuel industry has funded disinformation campaigns for years, even Create this kind of doubt about climate changeEven though they know their products cause it and the consequences. Congressmen have Use that misleading information To prevent or weaken federal policies that could slow climate change.

Expect a straight line in a changing world

In another example of black and white thinking, deniers argue that if global temperatures do not rise at a perfectly steady rate, then there is no such thing as global warming.

However, complex variables never change in a uniform way; They swing up and down in the short term even when showing long term trends. Most business data, such as revenue, earnings, and stock prices, do as well, with short-term fluctuations in long-term trends.

Mistaking a cold snap to refute climate change is a mistake Bad month for Apple stock To prove that Apple is not a good long-term investment. This error is caused by homing a small part of the graph and ignoring the rest.

The thinking error that makes people vulnerable to climate change denial

Effects on global temperature over time. Credit: Fourth National Climate Assessment

Not checking the gray area

Climate change deniers also erroneously cite correlations of less than 100% as evidence against human-caused global warming. They triumphantly point out that sunspots and volcanic eruptions also affect climate, although evidence shows that both do. Very little effect on long-term overheating compared to greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, the deniers argue that if burning fossil fuels doesn’t quite matter, then it doesn’t matter. They’re missing the gray area in between: greenhouse gases are actually just one factor warming the planet, but they are the most important factor and one that humans can influence.

“The climate was always changing” – but not like that

As increases in global temperatures became apparent, some climate change skeptics switched from denying them to rephrasing them.

Their frequent line, “The climate has always been changing,” usually delivered with an air of patient wisdom, is based on a glaring lack of knowledge about Evidence from climate research.

Their reasoning is based on an invalid dichotomy: either the climate changes or it doesn’t, and since it’s always changing, there’s nothing new here and nothing to worry about.

However, the current warming is on par Nothing has ever been seen by humansIn the distant past, severe global warming events were widespread throughout the planet Disasters that caused massive extinctionsSomething we don’t want to repeat.

As humanity faces the challenge of global warming, we need to use all of our knowledge resources. Recognizing the error of thinking about the roots of climate change denial can remove objections to climate research and make science the foundation of our efforts to preserve a hospitable environment for our future.

Introduction to the conversation

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quoteDenial of Climate Change (2023, May 2) Retrieved May 2, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-error-people-susceptible-climate-denial.html

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