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
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 et.al, 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.