Why conservatives 'deny' global warming

Amateur shrink?

Don’t bother with those tedious irritations known as scientific facts or evidence, or even, heaven forbid, finding out exactly what sceptics take issue with, just attack the messenger  – it’s so much easier.

So Chris Mooney’s psychological assessment of anyone who disagrees with the global warming narrative (particularly those on the right of politics) is worth a look, if only for a few chuckles:

So first off, let’s start with the facts about climate change — facts that you’d think (or you’d hope) any human being ought to accept.

It turns out that the case for human-caused global warming is based on simple and fundamental physics. We’ve known about the greenhouse effect for over one hundred years. And we’ve known that carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas, a greenhouse gas. Some of the key experiments on this, by the Irishman John Tyndall, actually occurred in the year 1859, which is the same year that Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

We also know that if we do nothing, seriously bad stuff starts happening. If we melt Greenland and West Antarctica, we’re looking at 40 feet of sea level rise. This is, like, bye bye to key parts of Florida.

So firstly we go from CO2 being a greenhouse gas (which we all agree on) to the catastrophic melting of the Greenland Ice sheet, without even a pause for breath. So what are we denying here?

So then, the question is, why do people deny this? And why, might I add, do Republicans in particular deny this so strongly?

And if your answer to that question is, “oh, because they’re stupid” — well, you’re wrong. That’s what liberals want to think, but it doesn’t seem be correct. In fact, it seems to be precisely the opposite — smarter (or more educated) Republicans turn out to be worse science deniers on this topic.

This is a phenomenon that I like to call the “smart idiot” effect, and I just wrote about it for AlterNet and Salon.com.

Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this effect — which is really what set the book in motion. I think the key moment came in the year 2008 when I came upon Pew data showing:

  • That if you’re a Republican, then the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to accept scientific reality — which is, that global warming is human caused.
  • If you’re a Democrat or Independent, precisely the opposite is the case.

This is actually a consistent finding now across the social science literature on the resistance to climate change. So, for that matter, is the finding that the denial is the worst among conservative white males — so it has a gender aspect to it — and among the Tea Party.

So seriously: What’s going on here? More education leading to worse denial, but only among Republicans? How can you explain that?

And the rest is all the same kind of psychobabble. Conservative “morality” impels denial, that kind of thing.

It’s not that sceptics of any political shade ‘deny’ the basic science of global warming, they are suspicious of politically-motivated and corrupted organisations like the IPCC (and conservatives are generally opposed to big government and the UN in general), they feel betrayed and misled when climate scientists massage data and fudge results in order to strengthen their case and they are deeply concerned about the embedded environmental groups such as WWF and Greenpeace who have a clear agenda. And so on and so on.

And they are particularly offended by suggestions that they are in a psychological state of denial. Quite the reverse, those more educated and informed about the current climate debate are in a far better position to see through the lies, spin and misrepresentations of mainstream climate science than those who are less so.

Maybe Chris could apply the same industry as he has in this article to the sorry state of mainstream climate science, instead of attacking those who call it out.

Read it here.

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