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How Psychology Influences the Climate Change Debate

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    Before the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change) Report in 2007; there has been unsettling in the research and community of scientists; as to whether climate change is occurring or not. One of the most conveyed messages was the increasing surface temperature due to the upsurge in emission reports of greenhouse gases especially as the industrial revolution unfurled; was Global warming; which was lost in uncertainty to debates in the scientific community. The argument illustrates that climate change is just one of many problems facing the world; and the current focus on the area; might lead to inattention to other even more pressing social and economic problems. Mann (2009); was able to argue that the premise that society can only tackle one problem at a time; and these societal issues are independent of each other; is a plainly untrue premise; because climate change is likely to affect indices that would affect all other aspect of life on earth.

    Landes, (2011) explained the term Millenarianism; which is the rancour for explanation of the future of the whole world; in an attempt to perceive world events; not limited to climate change. Millenarianism looks at the Earth in the coming years as sin and boomerang; so are if we to look at continuous carbon emissions as sin; then climate change is boomerang. Even though the facts and figures are not conclusive, there is a rise in clarion calls that preach eco-friendly behaviour using moral bases and scare tactics as their method of conveyance; creating a form of sense of belonging to those who participate in this priestly environmentalism (Bell, 2015). The IPCC Report of 2007; and recent events goes to show that climate change is upon us; and the role of psychology should not stop at identifying the biases of the argument; but also developing strategies for unifying efforts at containing climate change and its effects.

    This report gives us a sense of calm because; the debate has been reported to have a consensus in the favour of the importance of immediate actions at reversing the impacts of climate change that lie ahead of us. Psychology’s Contribution The contribution of psychology in the climate change debate is becoming more important because more recent happenings have drawn the scientific community into a consensus and awareness of the urgency pertaining to taking action to curb the impending dangers that will accompany climate change. Psychology is very important here; because the change that is required is behavioural and it pervades the lifestyle of humans round the globe. Psychological research is important in understanding public’s assessment of its impacts. In areas affected by flooding and disasters such earthquakes and hurricanes; in areas affected by famine; due to irregularity of seasons; and due to poor soil output; there is higher level of understanding of the risks involved in climate change.

    In other areas where things are still going fine; and extreme weather events are not yet imminent; the risk of climate change is still very much perceived as very low because of lack of personal experience; and lack of association with the victims. For one who has related with the victims in a conversation or via watching a talk show or conference; he/she would be more likely to correctly evaluate the risks accompanying climate change. The level of public awareness and understanding of the risk is very important because people are not likely to take significant action if they haven’t found sufficient purpose to do so. There is the disparity in understanding of climate change among communities that can only be discovered by sufficient psychological research; and there are also variations in appraisal processes; both emotional and cognitive; which affect the belief.

    For example; those to whom climate change was conveyed as a very fatal phenomenon that would destroy the earth may go on to avoid the issue due to the fear of even thinking about it; and being unable to do much about it. People are not actually going to be happy discussing climate change without credible suggestions involved in reversing the climate change itself. Let us look at the drivers of climate change and see how behaviour is involved; and thus psychology needed. One behaviour pattern that influences climate change indirectly through carbon dioxide emissions is the lifestyle of high energy consumption; which might be due to motivation; earning capacity; and social needs. Even in the face of group dynamics; there are individual level psychological factors that motivate this consumption. It is imperative that proper research on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions be carried out (Bell, 2015). For example; through sharing power plants rather than having so many emissions generating power plants in a locality; carbon emissions..

    Noteworthy Hurdles in Climate Change Mitigation For example, in Nigeria, in certain neighbourhoods with one room apartments; there is this prevalence of generators for each room; in a building of 20 rooms; there will be 20 generators emitting 20 times more than would be if they were to share a good diesel generator. In case of this; it might be argued that there is need for individual privacy of energy consumption; but there is need to see that we are just creating environmental problems by trying to flex our financial muscles especially in the area of energy. Whether using a combined generator; is the best message to be conveyed will still be subject to research because the message might be unacceptable to certain people; they might find it irritating. Apart from these; there are other barriers to attempts quelling climate change; including denial of the phenomenon by subsets of the population; ignorance; and mistrust in the conveyer of the message.

    Many are led t to think that climate change is propaganda for brainwashing the population to behave in certain ways; and that nothing is actually happening; and that the governments are merely trying to use it to their benefit; in terms of conveying messages towards behavioural changes in lifestyle. Apart from these; Hobson, (2003) highlighted habit as one of the most important hurdles to cross in mitigating climate change; because habits form slowly; and definitely; can only be changed slowly; via substantial priming; attitude change; and gradual practice. Due to the occurrence of these hurdles, psychologists are of utmost importance; because the climate change message has to be conveyed with caution; and enough simplicity to pervade norms and societal beliefs; and with enough seriousness to engender formation of new behaviours that will mitigate climate change.

    A lot of research is in progress; and more need to jumpstart because each climate change causing habit is complex and cannot be solved overnight. What Next There is need for policies; incentives, taxation; campaigns in order to engender change in behavioural patterns related to climate change; but the direction of these policies; the regulation and the timing of these incentives and taxes is in the hands of the psychologists to fashion; via empirical studies that can show reasonable understanding of the population and applicability of intervention. Lastly, the campaigns are going to be imbued with a lot of important jingles and information that also have to be crafted carefully by psychologists; though along with sociologists; but mainly psychologists because we can understand the perceptual processes that will be involved in appraising such a message; and the relative tendency of favourable reaction (Spence, Pidgeon and Uzzell, 2009).

    Since the issue of climate change is global; the scope engenders the need for more than an action committee; more than a foundation; because some communities would respond better to non-governmental interventions due to distrust for their governments. All these have to be put into consideration in the detailed action plan. In conclusion; what can be done without psychology; how is the committee going to embark on moderating behavioural patterns in a sustainable way without psychologists? Very little indeed; before writing this paper; I was rather unaware of the extent of the risk of climate change; and as a psychologist; I will try my possible best to be part of this mitigation. Climate change reversing; and mitigation starts with me.

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