To The Daily Sun,
Although scientific illiteracy is a big problem, cognitive scientists have found that the most powerful driver of Anthropogenic Climate Change denial is a belief in an unfettered free market and keeping government small and as unintrusive as possible. At almost any cost.
The most vehement climate-deniers are free-market fundamentalists: tea party, libertarians, right-wing Christians, etc. Their free-market ideology drives their denial and they dismiss anything that would threaten their political ideology. Facts don’t matter. Earth doesn’t matter enough. Clean air and water don’t matter enough. Lives don’t matter enough. Political and economic ideology is what matters most.
The reality is that climate action requires both market-based innovation and government action. The second most-powerful driver is conspiracy theories which are the main drivers of anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers, chem-trailers, young-Earth creationists, Moon landing deniers, deep staters, Illuminati believers, globalist conspiracists, Jewish banker conspiracists, Holocaust deniers, cell tower alarmists, GMO apocalypse believers, and those who believe that big-pharma is hiding cancer cures, et al. And don’t forget about the aliens spaceships at Area 51! With free-market climate science deniers, the conspiracy belief is that scientists want to destroy capitalism and institute socialism.
These are people who sense a loss of control, even victimhood, and fall prey to “illusory pattern perceptions.” Delusional heuristics. They feel their worldview is threatened and, when one’s worldview is threatened, people feel as if their person is threatened.
In a recent article published in the journal Science, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University claim that pattern perception compensates for feeling out of control in a sea of forces people do not comprehend. They see “a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli.” They see things that aren’t there.
If it sounds a bit crazy, it is. Galinsky notes, “The less control people have over their lives, the more likely they are to try and regain control through mental gymnastics,” and “they’re extremely common and most likely satisfy a deep and enduring psychological need.”
For an interesting look into the crazy train, check out Cognitive Scientist Stephan Lewandowski’s peer-reviewed paper, “The role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial.” There are many articles online about it. A good article on conspiracy ideation and the ideologically motivated rejection of science is at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/jul/08/climate-denial-linked-to-conspiratorial-thinking-in-new-study.
The good news is that the climate science deniers are losing the debate. In a University of Michigan survey last year, “12 percent of respondents said that climate change was caused by natural patterns, with another 12 percent saying they weren’t sure if it is occurring at all. Fifteen percent of respondents said the climate is not changing”. (The Hill)