Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'd rather not know: the psychology of climate denial

I also blame Zeus for the curse of delusional hope.

Paris (AFP) Dec 1, 2009 - If the evidence is overwhelming that man-made climate change is already upon us and set to wreak planetary havoc, why do so many people refuse to believe it? …

It is the human instinct to shut out or modify a terrifying truth: that the world as we know it is heading for a smash.

"It's a paradox: when it comes to disasters, people do not allow themselves to believe what they know," explained Jean-Pierre Dupuy, a professor of social philosophy at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

"Because everybody is in denial -- or would like to be in denial -- and would prefer to not shoulder too much of the responsibility for dealing with the problem, you have a kind of disconnect here," Grayling said.

Even scientists reluctantly pushed by their growing sense of alarm into launching public appeals for action have trouble coping.

When Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Australian National University, attended a September climate conference at Oxford tasked with imagining a world warmed by 4.0 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), he was struck by how researchers spoke among themselves.

"It was very revealing. As they relaxed somewhat, they began to speak about their fears, about losing sleep, not wanting to think about the implications of what they do," he recalled.

Under such circumstances, people are resourceful in finding ways to reassure themselves or turn their backs on the threat posed by climate change.

I'd rather not know: the psychology of climate denial

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