“DON’T DUMP ME IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITHOUT A MAP AND THE INSTRUCTIONS “YOU HAVE TO JUST WALK”……AND EXPECT ME TO KNOW WHERE TO GO”
Why do we believe myths about climate change that are so untrue in the science? Is out misunderstanding our fault? Are we stupid if we don’t see the connection?? Is anyone manipulating us and the information about climate change? How do we spot if we are being manipulated?
These are some questions that sprang up for me after having a conversation with an “everyday” guy at the bar at work at in Tromsø.
The context: Whilst I was working behind the bar, I heard someone talking about climate change. He said he wanted to know more because he didn’t really understand it. Some questions that he had were:
– Is the climate really changing that much?
– I’ve seen graphs. The climate has changed before in the earth’s history. Why is now any different?
– Will climate change really affect us as much as it is portrayed in the media?
– Do my actions really cause much of an impact on the climate?
As soon as I heard this conversation, I was keen to try to join the conversation! He was very educated in the things which cause climate change, such as our consumption and our methods of travel. He as also very aware Norwegian have a large carbon footprint.
His motivation for change:
His motivation was not so clear to pick out. He wasn’t currently making efforts himself to change, but I could tell he was interested in whether we as a society should be changing or not. I could tell he was open to change, but this leads me to the barriers…
The barriers he enlightened me on:
It seemed the main barrier for him was the lack of information- or more precisely- POOR information and MIS-information on climate change.
His main concerns were about how bad is climate change and how much do our actions impact the climate. It seemed it was important for him to know the raw and true facts. He said he had most of his information from media coverage of climate change.
Why will we be motivated for change if we don’t fully understand WHY one must change??
He made a fair point: “why would the everyday person wish to change their lifestyle if they don’t think it makes *much* of a difference”.
Poor information 1: Too many fancy graphs and too much info
The thing that stuck out the most for him was that information he sees is often presented in graphs dating back millions of years. He could see that the temperature has fluctuated from very warm to very cold in the Earth’s history.
The message he said he got from this was that the Earth has fluctuated warm and cold cycles. Great! So temperature change is normal? What’s happening now is quite normal right??
He said these types of graphs do not mean anything because they show too long of a time period. The main message of the graph is lost because there is too much information here. One sees and imagine and that’s what sticks. All one sees is warm-cold fluctuations and they don’t either look OR read further.
One is left confused. We are told climate change is a man-made. But this graph shows it’s normal if one doesn’t read the between the lines or the fine print.
A further really insightful comment the man struck me with was:
“We see this graph of 3 billion or so years and I see the temperature changes: How do we humans have a chance to affect this graph??? The everyday person cannot comprehend that we can cause this, let alone change it!?!”
Poor information 2: The lack of concrete actions
The man was educated that many of our actions release gasses that affect the climate like methane and carbon dioxide. The media had covered this well. BUT he felt there was a big whole in their reporting:
– HOW MUCH does driving your car cause the climate to change?
– HOW MUCH does flying cause the climate to change?
– HOW MUCH emissions really come from meat?
It was clear he wanted concrete information on this. He felt it was not enough for the media to tell us ways we need to change. He wanted to know HOW MUCH we need to change, otherwise people are left with this really grey-area of not knowing how much they can do these things. I completely agree with him.
Are you asking me to never fly again?
Can I never touch a piece of meat?
Can I ever drive again or will I have to cycle to France this year?
I have no idea what to do, on top of not knowing if it really make a difference.
We have to be more solid in what we are asking of people. We cannot just present these actions without quantifying them. I think this is quite mean almost to the general public. How do we expect people to make a change if we just leave the responsibility to the individual to them to find this info out for themselves. That’s quite a big weight we are putting on people’s conscience.
Poor information 3: MISimformation
“As well as being told that climate change is this imminent threat, I here other conflicting information. There is no consensus so I’m confused.
– Donald Trump doesn’t believe that Climate Change is a threat… why? Which is true?
– I’ve heard sea levels will rise, but does that matter too much?
– The weather will improve in Norway, isn’t that a good thing for our farming?”
– There has been really cold weather in USA and other parts, so the earth isn’t warmer everywhere?
No wander the general public are confused! There is a huge amount of information out there. To me because I am fairly educated on the facts and the main skeptic arguments, I can very easily spot misinformation. But to someone without all the facts, any conflicting info will no doubt leave them confused.
The media plays on UNCERTAINTY. It’s not easy to present that climate change is false, but they can play with the uncertainty factor. People do not like uncertainty. If they are going to change their lifestyle (not a small thing right?), they want to know it is for a good reason.
Giving conflicting statements like above, indirectly supports that climate change is false or that it’s not that bad. Furthermore, the media and climate skeptics are trained in LANGUAGE INTELLIGENCE. Scientists are not so trained. They are educated in very subtle tricks to make us believe FALSE statements.
E.g. If you present information to someone repetitively, even though the statement is false, one will remember it to be true. This is because our brain works in a way that when we are repeatedly exposed to information, we can recall it easily. Because we can recall it easily, we believe it to be true.
E.g. Climate change is NOT fake.
If this statement is repeated over and over, people often ignore the “NOT” and just read “Climate change is fake”… and this is what they end up recalling.
SNEAKY HUH!?! There are a lot of other clever language tricks media and skeptics can use to falsely mislead us. How do we fight against this??? I will present the guy’s ideas for solutions in the following post.