Assumptions, Motivations & Climate Scepticism…

Degrees of climate scepticism and the assumptions and motivations that drive these views may be encountered, within a training environment. A great deal of time and energy could be taken up in debate of these issues and simply repeating the scientific case for climate change may not be enough. It may be useful then for trainers to be aware of, and prepared to handle this contentious issue, in order to build a constructive dialogue in any training event.

A growing body of research into the psychology of communicating climate change sees climate scepticism as a question of cultural, political and world views, which the climate science challenges. Adam Corner, a researcher based at the School of Psychology – Cardiff University, and member of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, holds that climate change has become a visceral issue because it connects with –

‘ancient battles – about personal responsibility, state intervention, the regulation of industry, the distribution of resources and wealth, or the role of technologies in society’ .

In an interview with Geoff Chambers, one of the more vocal climate sceptics in the UK, Corner questions the motivations and assumptions behind Chambers scepticism. In response Chambers strongly disagrees that his political and economic concerns are driving his climate scepticism:

My scep­ti­cism is based on the same scientific grounds as that of other com­menters on sceptic blogs, many of whom hold polit­ical opin­ions rad­ic­ally different from mine. 

However, he does agree that varying political and cul­tural back­grounds can affect the way climate scepticism is expressed.

There are Tea Party types who think global warming is a commie plot to install global gov­ern­ment; nimbys who don’t like wind­farms; engin­eers scornful of the math­em­at­ical models used to gen­erate tem­per­ature pro­jec­tions; sci­ent­ists and aca­demics fearful for the repu­ta­tion of their pro­fes­sions; and Tories who don’t like hippy tree­hug­gers. It takes all sorts

The full interview can be found on Corner’s website Talking Climate Change and on a number of climate sceptic blogs including Harmless Sky and

It would be naive to think all climate sceptics hold the same view and completely refute that climate change is occurring. There appears to be many shades and depths of scepticism. Where people do express more common views is with regard to the sensitivity of climate to CO2 and the sensitivity of society to climate change.

We don’t deny that global tem­per­at­ures have been rising irreg­u­larly for cen­turies, and that anthropogenic CO2 may be respons­ible for some of the recent rise… Where we dis­agree with the consensus is on the higher estimates of cli­mate sens­it­ivity endorsed by the IPCC and the cata­strophic effects which are sup­posed inevitability to follow. G. Chambers.

Findings from a study conducted by Wouter Poortinga,  supports this notion, that people who express scepticism do so with regards to the range and degree of the impacts. This also happens to be where, at the moment, the greater uncertainty exists among climate scientists too.

When tackling the issue of climate scepticism within a training environment we recommend that trainers and climate change communicators to consider the following:

  • To question, analyse and debate is integral to the learning process, and should not be avoided.
  • However, a balance must be struck to ensure conflicting views are neither demonised, nor allowed to dominate.
  • Climate sceptics are varied in their opinions, and many do accept that some degree of climate change is occurring
  • Given the uncertainties that do exist it is very important that trainers have a solid grasp of what these uncertainties entail and what people can realistically expect of the science.
  • There may be disagreement over the extent we need to adapt, but a cost effective and efficient processes for adaptation, as advocated in this training resource, make good socio-economic and environmental sense. If a basic need can be established, it may prove beneficial to focus on effective processes for adaptation, particularly in training sessions where robust and differing opinions may become entrenched.



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