Friday, February 7, 2014

Is Denying Climate Change Like Suppressing Health Risks?

States that have declared GHG mitigation strat...
States that have declared GHG mitigation strategies or hold action plans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is Learning about Climate Change like Having a Colonoscopy? (5 page pdf, Richard C. J. Somerville, Earth's Future, Dec. 16, 2013) 

Readers of this blog know that it focuses on the links between urban pollution and health. Today we review a short article that addresses the challenge of communicating the facts of climate change and why so many people seem to want to avoid knowing that or even deny that it exists. The article observed that the same reaction is found when some people are faced with the hard realities of medical disease, especially ones that end in death such as heart attacks and cancer. Further, a poll revealed that over half (55%) of those responding did not want to know about their risk to disease because of their fear of knowing the answer, a phenomenon called “health information avoidance”. But most of those who did want to know the risks (82%) also wanted to know the options available to deal with the disease. Turning to communicating climate change, the author reasoned that a little priming of the pump by providing more about policy options could produce more understanding and support for those policies and less climate change information avoidance and denial. 

Let’s hope.

Key Quotes: 

“consider those people who are strongly opposed to certain kinds of government actions, such as imposition of new taxes (e. g., carbon taxes) and interference in free markets (e. g., cap-and-trade systems). If those people were to find out that these are exactly the government actions that might well be undertaken, then perhaps they would just rather not know about climate change” 

“In thinking about communicating climate change science, it is always important to distinguish between scientific results and policy choices. The physical science of climate change is policy-neutral, and two people who understand and accept the same scientific findings may easily differ on the policy options, for which scientific input is important, but values and priorities and economic and political considerations also play key roles.” 

“We may discover that encouraging people to be thoughtful and analytical about their feelings and beliefs can help them to be more receptive to learning about the findings of climate change science.”
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