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Climate Psychology Alliance - facing difficult truths

In this serialised interview with co-founder of the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA), Adrian Tait, we explore different aspects of the psychology that has become a key theme in discussions around how we cope with climate change information and also how we disseminate that information.

 

The conversation with Adrian covers a lot of ground and where appropriate he cross-references the work of his colleagues where their expertise is most relevant. This interview was conducted in September 2016, notably prior to the outcome of the US election result that has the real potential to set back efforts to reduce carbon emissions and avert environmental collapse.

As many political and economic commentators are saying, the transition to a clean energy economy has begun and market forces are gathering momentum. It is no longer a question of “if” but “how fast” we can change our energy consumption. The pace must accelerate if we are to stop the heating of the planet that poses an existential risk to us all.

In this light the election of Donald Trump creates considerable anxiety, as his stated ambitions are to reverse the direction of energy transition and international agreements. Although Trump’s win was not anticipated in this interview, the theme of despair is discussed and an attempt to seed the openings of a discussion that deals with coping and moving forward are planted. 

One of the reasons that I was very keen to learn more about the work of the CPA is that in my previous meetings and interviews with climate scientists, and others involved in actively confronting the environmental crisis, conversations often highlight the need to communicate with the public at large.

Despite this need the mainstream media consistently fails to speak up on this issue and even when it does, the articles are generally so politicised that the name of the publication itself can exclude vast numbers of the public that need to be reached.

The outcome here is that the media forms what Adrian refers to in the 3rd chapter as “echo chambers”. This is where one media outlet repeats the same themed messages to a set of readers whose alarm is exacerbated but despite sharing on their social media feeds, is seldom accepted by those of differing political persuasions. The same is conversely true where journalists who downplay climate risk, or even deny it exists, have their own echo chambers that are often formed along political lines.

The need to understand how to depoliticise these issues away from their previous framing has never been greater. Many would consider it naive to think that climate change communications can be depoliticised at all. What the CPA interview highlights is that when delve into the “maze of complex human & cultural reactions” to the problem, we have a lot of unpicking to do before we can start reconstructing our world view, as well as our individual and collective purpose in life.

Part 1:

01 - Introduction - Adrian Tait provides some background to the CPA, structure and raison d’être

02 - The “oh shit!” moment; coping with despair, cognitive dissonance and “disavowal”

03 - “The information deficit fallacy”; how more scientific facts do not always create desired change, entering “the maze of complex human & cultural reactions” to the climate problem; the importance of language and listening 

04 - Gender in climate change; communication and can women teach men about connectedness to nature? Living in an illusion that the human economy (as opposed to natural ecology) is the ultimate reality

 

More posts by Nick Breeze

Comment: Watching our recent interview with Christiana Figueres, David Tattershall (Envisionation Limited) responded with considered concern with respect to her answer to the question on the reduction of emissions from the aviation industry.

Just to recap, here is the transcripted answer with Tattershall's response below:  

The lady who ushered in the Paris Agreement now wants to ramp up the pace and ensure the world reaches peak emissions by 2020, leading to total decarbonisation by 2050. The whole campaign hinges on the a new report that cites 2020 as a critical milestone for stemming the effects of climate change.

Christiana Figueres is persuasive and influential but in light of recent world events that include the destabilisation of the EU as a political block, and the openly anti-climate action administration of President Trump, it is very clear that the world has changed since Paris.

READ THE COMMENT: Does Figueres interview give clues as to why we went backwards from Copenhagen to Paris?

 

Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP): 2017 Climate Change Seminar Series

Science, politics, knowledge management, innovation and markets all play a role in climate change action, but what is the role of the University of Cambridge as an ‘anchor institution’ for these? Bringing together speakers spanning the worlds of research and policy, this series of events will explore how the multifaceted aspects of climate change action can come together to help us make the right decisions for the long run.  

The window of opportunity is closing… but the price of failure is still too high!

The rate of ecological destruction is now so bad that the fate of our civilisation literally hangs in the balance. The loss of the Arctic polar ice cap, the melting from above and below of Antarctica, the culling and collapse of forests and dying oceans, failing ecosystems, our atmosphere burdened with hundreds of billions of tonnes of extra greenhouse gases, and still each week scientists report more broken links in the chains of interconnectedness that sustain each one of us, rich and poor, on this planet. Despite all this, the great human enterprise built on a foundation of carbon, rumbles on in search of new fixes.

 

Peter Wadhams has achieved many accolades and held positions such as Director of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge Uk, among a great many others. He has been on more than 50 research trips to the polar regions and, of special interest to those studying the demise of the Arctic ice cap, he has been under the ice on 6 submarine expeditions.

 

In this serialised interview with co-founder of the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA), Adrian Tait, we explore different aspects of the psychology that has become a key theme in discussions around how we cope with climate change information and also how we disseminate that information.