Fear of change is the biggest barrier to tackling climate sceptics

The ongoing climate science furore, largely cooked up by the media and dinosaur lobby groups, has revealed how much people desperately don’t want the facts to be true.

Quite a few people I know, some senior executives, have recently asked me what I think about the climate change science debate happening right now.

Usually they ask if it means climate change predictions are untrue. I can see it on their faces. They are hoping what they have been hearing for years will be revealed as a fraud, or a gross exaggeration, so that life can stay the same.

This my theory anyway. That most people just don’t want their lives to change that much as a result of climate science.

This fear of change means they read vaguely about the recent ‘climate gate’ scandal, over leaked emails and Himalayan glacier predictions, and try to breathe a sigh of relief that not much has to change, after all.

What worries me is that quite a few of the people I’ve spoken with haven’t grasped that a couple of errors and some scientific infighting doesn’t change the facts, the worrying predictions around climate change.

Or maybe they have grasped it, at least initially, but then have pushed that to the back of their minds and just kept thinking that they don’t want it to be true, then selectively only remember the media commentary or reports about science being in doubt.

This desire for the status quo is far more dangerous than the climate deniers themselves.

People seem to be becoming sceptical as a defence mechanism, and are eagerly spurred on by the deniers, whose credentials the media don’t question in their search for credible sounding opposing views to 99.99% of climate scientists.

This article about Patrick Michaels, for example, shows how the media fails to dig into the background of climate deniers and hardcore sceptics.

As a result, their comments, packed full of conflicts of interest, help people convince themselves that they won’t have to deal with the society-changing consequences of climate change.

The result of the sloppiness in the media? Results like this:

A recent BBC poll revealed the number of Britons who believe in climate change has dropped from 44% to 31% since November

So whilst we fight back against the paid climate change deniers, we also need to think about how we tackle fear of change in the average voter too.

That, surely, is the biggest fight to win.


  1. Anonymous

    How this for a fact. Co2 is only a bit player in the earth's greenhouse effect. I was told by the world's scientists that it was CO2 and only CO2 causing all of the trouble. Now I hear it hasn't been CO2, it's been water vapor all along. I trusted Al gore, now I think I've been 'had'. I'm pissed.

    read it here; http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/vapor_warming.html

  2. Hi Toby,
    I think you have definitely touched on something here. Many of those aspects of our lives that we have come to treasure and associate with our identities (warm homes, seven days a week meat diets, holidays abroad, two car and two child families etc) are potentially being threatened in the climate change discourse, and to threaten these ways of life; unless a positive, commonsense and deontologous solution is put forward will cause almost everyone to run a mile. Climate change deniers therefore offer the shiny silver objects for our existentialist anxieties to attach themselves to. And we don't want to let go at any cost.
    In my view campaigners, scientists and even CSR managers have as much to do with this, due to there lack of understanding of engagement and change strategy, as the climate deniers do.
    Good wishes, Nick

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