Why are people not convinced by climate change?
The front page of today’s Times carries a poll which finds only 41% of those polled believe climate change is happening and that it is man-made. However, a third of those polled were not convinced that it is the result of human behaviour and further 15% don’t accept it has been happening at all. I think 41% is a reasonable proportion but it is hard to escape the conclusion that Iain Dale reaches; that people are simply not convinced.
The Times leader rather unwisely dismisses the sceptics as ‘global village idiots’ however, it would seem axiomatic to me looking around that the presence of man and things like huge, gasping cities would have some effect on the surrounding environment and to say it wouldn’t is slightly unrealistic. Furthermore, the leader rightly points to the overwhelming evidence;
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was written by 152 scientists from more than 30 countries and reviewed by more than 600 experts. It concluded that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is due to the observed increase in man-made greenhouse gas concentration. Concentrations of CO2 have increased by more than 35 per cent since industrialisation began, and they are now at their highest for at least 800,000 years.
None of the main political parties have made the issue their own the leader says and this is the reason why people are not convinced. However, this is a bit disingenuous when it is hard for any political party to convey such sophisticated information in a sound-bite culture and it also assumes people are willing to digest it. People are unlikely to want to be told they can no longer consume as they have; they can’t enjoy the freedom offered them by a car etc and politicians know this so they soft-soap the message. Something that is as much down to them as it is the culture of the voters they are talking too; people don’t like to be told bad things. Denial then becomes a defence mechanism.
What will make them less likely to want to digest this message is the lack of viable alternatives. So, with the car example, people won’t like being told they can no longer have it, or have to pay more for it when the alternative is spending large amounts of time in a cramped and unreliable bus. If politicians are to get the message across then they have to have something positive to offer alongside warnings about the potentially dire consequences of climate change.