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Why Do People Deny Climate Change?

People Deny Climate Change


Whatever the case, let's start from the beginning. Climate change is a fact. It is getting warmer, ice sheets are melting, sea levels are rising and weather conditions are becoming more extreme. That this is due to humans is actually a fact.

 Or let's put it this way: the chance that it will not be caused by humans is 1 in 3.5 million. To this end, scientists have compared a number of authoritative studies in the field of climate change. The growing CO2 emissions of the industry play an important role in global warming.

We still have 12 years left


What climate scientists also agree: if the temperature on earth rises by more than 1.5 degrees, the disaster for our planet cannot be foreseen. We still have 12 years to turn the tide and prevent a catastrophe. That sounds dramatic, but that's how it is.

 It is for good reason that 16-year-old Greta Thunberg travels throughout Europe (by train) to convince the big bosses that we must take action NOW. After all, it's about her future and that of her generations. And it is not for nothing that The Guardian announced this week that it is no longer talking about 'climate change' (which still sounds pretty sweet and passive), but about 'climate crisis'.

Climate hoax

Perhaps this helps, because there are still people who invariably 'believe' that climate change is a hoax.  Something that is no longer possible : “It is not permitted to spread demonstrable untruths. Denying climate change is also included. ”This can be read in the user rules of the platform. But how is it possible that people deny climate change? Isn't the scientific evidence conclusive?

Cognitive dissonance

Rob de Wijk explains this in his column in Trouw as 'cognitive dissonance'. In short, this means that people act according to their own beliefs. We consciously ignore problems that we do not think we can influence.

What does that 1.5 degree matter? Isn't 12 years long? And what does it matter what a small country like the belgium does when US President Trump cancels the Paris climate agreement? Of course, De Wijk answers legitimate questions with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “ We must hang together or we shall hang separately. "In other words: together we are strong.

If we want to tackle climate problems, we must work together internationally and not wait for what the other person is doing.

In addition to 'cognitive dissonance', there is also such a thing as 'confirmation bias'. In fact, that means that we mainly look for information that supports our own hypothesis and avoid information that makes us uncomfortable. We all do this (not just the climate deniers) and it often happens unknowingly. Not only do we see the information that supports our own opinion earlier, we also remember it better. It has been known for some time that online platforms such as Facebook play a useful role in this, so that we end up in a sort of online bubble and only see content that confirms our own hypothesis.

The size of the problem is crippling


Paul de Lange is a professor of psychology at the Free University and specializes in climate psychology. He also says in an interview with Trouw that the scope of the climate problem can have an extra inhibitory effect on action. “People are susceptible to the thought: what can I contribute?” The idea that one heat pump does not contribute anything can discourage.almost half of homeowners do not intend to make their home more sustainable quickly. The National Energy Transition Monitor 2019 shows a similar picture: people have become more cautious and first look at what the government will do before they take action themselves.

We don't just want to take the lead


We are afraid to be ahead and stand alone. After all, we are herd animals. We also generally think that we are much more concerned with the climate than, for example, our neighbors. That often turns out not to be the case once you start the conversation. “If we know that the neighbors are also going to work on sustainability, we want to imitate it. This is how our primordial brain works, "says Anne marie Pronk (advisor in climate psychology) in Trouw.

Current lifestyle

The American magazine Psychology Today comes with another explanation. It is difficult to deal with a disaster that spreads over decades and that can only be averted if we literally change everything about our current lifestyle. Stop driving, stop flying, no longer eat meat, insulate your house, purchase solar panels, no longer buy fast fashion, invest in windmills, etc.


Climate change relates to everything and therefore seems impossible. It is easier to put the climate problems aside and to opt for self-preservation in the short term. We close our eyes or even deny the facts to protect ourselves from uncomfortable truths. It is a primitive defense mechanism of our brain.

One step at a time

A solution for this is of course the gradual introduction of changes. Do not eat meat once a week. Take the train to work one day a week instead of the car. Buy one item less per month. Turn your heating one degree lower and shower one minute shorter. That way it is manageable and we still have the feeling that we are doing well. And that is worth something. Together we are strong and many loose drops form an ocean.

What influence does climate change have on your brain? Let us know by leaving a comment below. 

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