Climate change denial is a widespread psychological phenomenon and we all seem to be guilty of doing it. We use a whole range of ‘maladaptive coping strategies’ while dealing with media reports on climate change. We admit some of the facts and allow some of the emotions, but do so in distorted form.
This post highlights different coping strategies identified by psychologists. We use them to manage the unpleasant feelings that follow when we open ourselves to the message of climate science.
A great many of us engage in climate change denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything. And we are right.
We look for a split second and then we look away, because the information is too disconcerting. Staying pretty hazy on the details and only skimming most of the news stories, especially the really scary ones. Telling yourself the science is too complicated and that the environmentalists are dealing with it.
Or we look but then turn it into a joke (“more signs of the Apocalypse!”).
We look but tell ourselves comforting stories about how humans are clever and will come up with a technological miracle that will safely suck the carbon out of the skies or magically turn down the heat from the sun.
We look but tell ourselves we are too busy to care about something so distant and abstract.
We look but tell ourselves all we can do is focus on ourselves. Shop at farmers’ markets and stop driving – but forget trying to actually change the systems that are making the crisis inevitable because that will never work. And at first it may appear as if we are looking, because many of these lifestyle changes are indeed part of the solution, but we still have one eye tightly shut.
These days, we increasingly hear news stories on say a drought in California, or that the cost of olive oil is set to rise by £ 2 a bottle after a disastrous harvest in Italy. We hear the coral reef has bleached for nearly 30% and 40% of the Arctic sea ice has melted and villagers in the Pacific Islands are starting to relocate because of rising sea levels. They are generally snippets of news here and there as opposed to front page headlines or the main news bulletins. Considering the magnitude of the consequences of global warming on each and every one of us, this is somewhat surprising!
Humans have evolved to assess and respond to risk through immediate feelings rather than cognitive processing. We will only act as a population when confronted with a crisis, happening before our very own eyes. Our daily lifestyles continue with little impact from global warming, so why indeed should we change anything? Supermarkets are full and unlimited travel locally and globally is still freely available to each and every one of us.
Adaptive coping strategies are positive behaviours based on full acceptance of the facts and experience of the emotions
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