The Green movement’s fear tactics are undermining the cause, the Breakthrough Institute‘s Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger say in the NYT:
There is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire. More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization. […]Evidence that a fear-based approach backfires has grown stronger. A frequently cited 2009 study in the journal Science Communication summed up the scholarly consensus. “Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern,” the researchers wrote, “they clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.” In a controlled laboratory experiment published in Psychological Science in 2010, researchers were able to use “dire messages” about global warming to increase skepticism about the problem.
If you haven’t already, you should acquaint yourself with the Breakthrough Institute. They consistently generate some of the smartest (and often the most counter-establishment) thinking on the environment. This latest op-ed, penned by the think tank’s two co-founders, makes an argument we’ve long supported: that climate alarmism is the leading cause of climate skepticism.We know that greenhouse gas emissions have reached levels unprecedented in modern history, and that these emissions will eventually contribute to higher surface temperatures. But when it comes to predicting the future evolution of climate, the share of man’s impact on it, and the size, scope, and timescale of the effects of climate change—the “fiddly bits,” in other words—we are learning more every day about how little we actually know. But this hasn’t stopped the green movement from banging on about the apocalypse in an attempt to scare the public into supporting its politically unworkable policies.As Breakthrough‘s founders point out in their op-ed, this strategy hasn’t worked. People are increasingly skeptical of climate change, because they can usually tell when the world hasn’t ended. The environmental movement needs to listen more to thinkers like Nordhaus and Shellenberger, and less to the alarmist voices.