Dire messages about global warming can backfire, new study shows

December 7, 2010 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Joe Bish for this article. See http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2010/11/16_globalwarming_messaging.shtml

Here is a message about these findings from Joe, followed by a summary article:

From Dot Earth Blog: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/an-inconvenient-mind/
“Behavioral researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that dire descriptions of global warming, in isolation, can cause people to recoil from acceptance of the problem… Here’s a link to the paper, “Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just World Beliefs.”

My take is population stabilization and reduction advocates should take note. Apocalyptic warnings seem to dominate most population advocacy not infused with strong reproductive rights and family planning ethos; in other words, most who look at population as a sustainability issue per se (which I think is a good use of one’s time) tend to rely on warnings and predictions of catastrophe to ignite rapid changes to public policy. That strategy seems to be losing by a score of 6.9 billion to zero.

I think that positive messages of moral responsibility to biodiversity and future generations of humans, a shared transnational commitment to planetary stewardship and, yes, the human rights enhancing work of providing world-class reproductive health to every human being are more likely to lead to public policy wins than providing visions of dystopia (valid and logical though they may be) in hopes people will be scared into action. Or at least this: when concluding one’s arguments, the phraseology should not be, “do this or else”, it should be “do this because it’s a good thing to do”.

Dire messages about global warming can backfire, new study shows

Dire or emotionally charged warnings about the consequences of global warming can backfire if presented too negatively, making people less amenable to reducing their carbon footprint, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Our study indicates that the potentially devastating consequences of global warming threaten people’s fundamental tendency to see the world as safe, stable and fair. As a result, people may respond by discounting evidence for global warming,” said Robb Willer, UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of a study to be published in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science.

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