Science has shown us the reality of climate change and the urgent need to act, so why haven’t we? Are we rational enough to understand the problems, and achieve solutions? Or might we be programmed to shut down when faced with the overwhelming scenario of total ecological collapse?
Behavioural studies reveal that when we are confronted by a threat such as climate change, people experience alternative emotions, and use different mechanisms to help themselves cope.
If you want to understand the psychology of climate change, then watching any disaster movie is a good starting point.
Faced with some overwhelming calamity, everyone acts differently. The reasons for these different responses owe much less to logic than to individual personality and conditioning. The responses are now so familiar that they’re Hollywood clichés.
- Some will ignore the problem.
- Some will delay and deny.
- Some will panic and despair.
- Some will act selfishly.
- Some will act altruistically.
- Some will argue over differences of approach.
- Some will collaborate effectively.
- Some will show leadership.
We are all capable of all these responses. And we all have a responsibility of leadership.
Indeed in the course of this crisis, each of us will move through all of these phases, cycling between resolve and despair, action and inaction, argument and effective collaboration.
We need to get as many people as possible from the lower end of this spectrum to the upper end of effective collaboration towards a shared objective .
Then we can get as many people as possible out of the burning building, away from the alien invaders and into the lifeboats and towards the end-of-the-movie kiss.
Perhaps understanding our own minds is the real challenge to confronting climate change.
To take action, we need to get people to understand their responses to the issue, to help them transfer their reactions to scientific evidence into positive action.
If we understand how we process information on global warming will help us to create effective messaging that motivates people towards positive change.