Two more reviews of Climate Change Denial
Posted on 12 August 2011 by John Cook
Over the last few days, I've come across two more reviews of Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand, by Haydn Washington and myself. The first was a typically thoughtful post by Kate from Climate Sight (who has also contributed to SkS in the past):
I recently finished reading Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand by Haydn Washington and Skeptical Science founder John Cook. Given that I am a longtime reader of (and occasional contributor to) Skeptical Science, I didn’t expect to find much in this book that was new to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Right from Chapter 1, Washington and Cook discuss a relatively uncharted area among similar books: denial among people who accept the reality of climate change. Even if a given citizen doesn’t identify as a skeptic/contrarian/lukewarmer/realist/etc, they hold information about global warming at arm’s length. The helplessness and guilt they feel from the problem leads them to ignore it. This implicit variety of denial is a common “delusion”, the authors argue – people practice it all the time with problems related to their health, finances, or relationships – but when it threatens the welfare of our entire planet, it is a dangerous “pathology”.
Therefore, the “information deficit model” of public engagement – based on an assumption that political will for action is only lacking because citizens don’t have enough information about the problem – is incorrect. The barriers to public knowledge and action aren’t scientific as much as “psychological, emotional, and behavioural”, the authors conclude.
This material makes me uncomfortable. An information deficit model would work to convince me that action was needed on a problem, so I have been focusing on it throughout my communication efforts. However, not everyone thinks the way I do (which is probably a good thing). So what am I supposed to do instead? I don’t know how to turn off the scientist part of my brain when I’m thinking about science.
You can read the full review here. The comments thread features some interesting discussion also.
This is a crucial book to read before runaway climate change is truly beyond our control. One can only hope that this book will be read by climate deniers so we can start the challenging journey to an ecologically sustainable future. The book finishes on a positive note:
"Climate change action is not about doom and gloom: it's about a new future, new technologies, new markets and a new world view of how we can live on Earth. It won't be simple or easy, but if we can face and conquer our denial, then our future is exciting as we make a better world."