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Psychology is to blame for humans not acting on climate change, psychologists say

August 5, 2009 |  2:16 pm

PolarIf you ever wondered what is to blame for the world's sluggish reaction to climate change, wonder no longer. The American Psychological Assn. has concluded in a 225-page report that the culprit is...

...human behavior.

That's right! Human behavior. Read all about it here. The panel of eight psychologists is slated to present its findings at a meeting of the American Psychological Assn. on Friday.

It may seem a tad ridiculous to have to even say that human behavior is responsible for the failure of humans to act, let alone take 225 pages to say it. I mean, what else would likely be responsible than people's minds and brains -- their big toes?

But the report gets into useful specifics. It draws on past studies on people's behavior in disaster situations. It examines what science knows about how you can get people to alter their behavior and what doesn't seem to work at all, no matter how fine and dandy an idea may sound. One example: People are more likely to use energy-efficient devices if they're given feedback, right then and there, about how much energy/money they're saving, rather than if they have to wait until they get their power bill.

Makes sense: Our species doesn't seem especially well-wired to act with long-term rewards in mind. We're much better at seeking gratification right this second, which is why I ate that bag of trail mix five minutes ago even though I'd like to drop some pounds and had only just had lunch.

The task force was convened because the APA wanted to involve psychologists in crafting a solution to climate change and in predicting how people are likely to react to it. 

--Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: BBC Worldwide

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Comments (31)

So funny. Psychology is not as easy as it looks.

long term rewards are not in humanities play book???? what are the pyramids?? the lake system in Arizona?? and this guy wonders why the majority of educated humans consider psychology an on going joke???

The real drag on prompt action against climate change is that the scientific evidence -- the full and openly-disclosed evidence -- that climate change is induced by man is scant. Instead, large numbers of people intuitively understand that climate is changing, as it always does in one direction or another. Give it some time and climate will cool, and warm again. Mankind's traceable causal carbon release is dwarfed by nature's. What's more contributory to climate change than carbon release instigated by human activity? Two, at least: solar variance and water vapor. Nature releases about 24,000X mankind's warming gas release by weight in the form of water vapor.

It's the anthropogenic allegation to climate change that isn't persuasive to people. Let's cope with the consequences of climate change. The earth has been both warmer and cooler than present, at times when human activities insignificant and so it will again. Take the politics and the info-facism out of this debate and psychologists have nothing to study.

This article is built on a false premise that there is such a calamity as global warming. Maybe humans are sluggish in reacting to "global warming" because most do not believe the earth is warming much less because of human activity. Why does the media write articles about a theory that some scientists believe but certainly not a majority as if it is a fact that has been proven. Since 1998 the mean temperature of the earth has actually gone down. HUH but we are told that actually means there is global warming. You do the math.

These are the same psychologist who continue to produce and market deadly pills and medications supposedly to relieve psychological problems, yet only fuel the growing market share of these deadly substances.
These are the same mental health professionals who were involved in the destructive torture practices of the Bush administration, yet so far have not spent a day before a ethical hearing and probally never will.
And, here we are relying on them again, to understand the public's reaction to changes needed to combat gobal warming?
Well, here is the primary reason why, Western Culture will never make the radical changes to combat gobal warming in their personal lives, the lives of their community and further a national consciousness: materialism.
The Capitalist education and history will never understand fully that their very lives and the lives of countless generations depends entirely on a national change in how we are all connected, because since birth most Americans and other western cultures are taught that their individuality is sacred, that "personal" acquisition is above all other matters. Personal achievement means a life of overcoming the herd and setting ones own personal interest above the interest of the community and even the world.
The grand history of conquest over nature and the harnessing of it's power has and is the mantra of higher eduacation and the current culture of science and technology.
Nature will right itself regardless of what we do or do not do and it may even one day seek our elimination in the process in order to save itself from our material mindset and lifestyle!
And, we as humans will never really know when this might happen, because we are more concern with our own interest rather than the interest of the whole.
We are the problem and the problem is are lack of world human interconnectiveness beyond the biological, but rather the higher environmental and spiritual levels of existance.

This study obviously applies only to Americans who are notorious for their need of instant gratification. Europeans are way ahead in making the necessary changes to their lifestyles in order to act on climate change.

I know people saying we, humans; are the most nocive plagues of the world (I totally agree) but they indeed married young and some want to have like 5 biological children. Which is actually just selfish whim. Make them understand the biggest problem is the excess of human beings. I mean we should BY LAW be allowed to have 1 or 2 children the most and the rest to be adopted children ... and yeah marry older like at 30 years old.
This is not a threaten against humans , we are not an endagered species, but we bring many especies to their extintion our sole existence is what is killing the planet by overuse of the planet resources , pollution, invasion of natural area.
So convince people to reproduce less, use less resources and at the same time be ecological.

They are all wrong. People are not jumping on the bandwagon because it is a HOAX!!!! They get in a room and talk PhD's but have no common sense. II used to go to a dentist that had 10 BS degrees. It didn't make him any better of a dentist and just made him arrogant. He believed he was so smart. Welll educated and wise are two very different things.
And by the way it is now called Climate Change since the Earth has been cooling for the last seven years. They can't even get that correct. Also, nice picture of the non-endangered Polar bear jumping into the water.

With Al Gore the face of Climate Change and its most adamant activists, if he truly believed that it was happening, why wouldn't one of the individuals with the LARGEST (by far) carbon footprint in the entire world not make lifestyle changes to reduce that footprint? If he truly believed in it he would make the changes,

The public's realization that we are being dooped is to blame, not psychology. When the term was changed from "Global Warming" to " Climate Change" after realizing that the planet has cooled each of the last 7 years, we decided to take a closer look.. By the way, the picture of the Polar Bear abandoning ship from a tiny iceberg is another intent to doop the public. Polar Bears swim as much as 100 miles out to sea in search of food. Polar Bears will actually benefit from an increase in temperature caused by normal cyclical cooling and heating of the earth. We are more educated on this subject. Psychology ? No.

Show me the statistics about the climate cooling dearest deniers, and I'll show you physicists, scientists, and over 200 qualified people who study this stuff who will tell you differently.

Denial by the way, is not a river in Egypt. It's a psychological reaction to stress.

Cooling since 1998? Check. Polar bears not in danger? Check. Solar variance? Check. Scientists not in agreement? Check. The deniers are out in full force. A few quick checks online and you see right through the B.S.

Thanks Exxon.

Personally, I think sensationalism and exaggeration in the media is to blame. I can remember being a little kid and learning about Global Warming and how, if we didn't make drastic changes, in ten years, we'd be out of oil and the coastal cities would all be flooded and basically, the world would be uninhabitable. That was Earth Day 1990... It's almost twenty years later, there's still oil... Los Angeles and New York are still above water and we're hearing the same things about how bad it will be ten years from now... The boy cries wolf too often.

Yes, and the lack of willingness to think long term (and forego the trail mix) is a psychological issue. Everything we do is,

Is this paper the result of (and a lead to more) grant seeking; our taxes at work?

Just some brief clarifications.

"The real drag on prompt action against climate change is that the scientific evidence -- the full and openly-disclosed evidence -- that climate change is induced by man is scant. " FALSE. It is not ~intuitive~, it is not pseudoscience. Just read any reports from NASA, the IPCC, prestigious and reputable scientific journals (Science and Nature) and you can see thousands of studies (from completely different fields--chemical oceanography, atmospheric sciences, paleoclimatology, ecology, etc) that say that climate is warming and it's very likely that it's due to human activity. Yes, the degree to which we are affecting climate is -somewhat- debatable, but we can say with a great deal of certainty that we are affecting climate. We are certain enough that we should take action. Climatologists put a lot of work factoring in natural feedbacks and solar activity, and there is a logical methodology behind each study.

"Since 1998 the mean temperature of the earth has actually gone down." FALSE. 1998 was an exceptionally warm year, but temperatures have been rising for the past decade. Furthermore, it's not necessarily the global mean average temperature that matters, it's WHERE this warming is occurring. High altitudes and high latitudes are much more sensitive than low altitudes and low latitudes, and the effect of climate change will be strikingly different in each region.

"Polar Bears will actually benefit from an increase in temperature caused by normal cyclical cooling and heating of the earth." FALSE. Polar bears rely on winter ice cover for hunting grounds, and if the ice melts earlier each year, their window for hunting decreases substantially. Polar bears can swim, but 100 miles is really pushing it. They have to be desperate to swim for that long, and if they can't find the food, they run out of energy and drown.

Climate is a very complex subject, and I feel very frustrated when non-scientists try to tackle it. (This isn't restricted to skeptics, either.)

For arguments sake, let's just drop the term Global Warming altogether ...does it really matter? Even if the globe were warming at such an accelerated rate *naturally*, the bottom line is that our planet is quickly becoming uninhabitable because of the un-Godly amount of *POLLUTION* we HUMANS are spewing into our environment. We are poisoning our air and water supplies at an alarming rate. Every scientist on Earth, including those who work for our top agencies, such as NASA, etc... agree on this. It really doesn't matter weather you call it Global Warming or Over Pollution...We are OBVIOUSLY and quickly killing ourselves and the planet we live on.

The whole POINT of the Global Warming argument is that HUMAN ACTIVITY is polluting our planet to a point of no return. If you want to continue to believe that our behavior isn't changing the climate, fine...but what Al Gore and others are REALLY trying to tell you is that we are POLLUTING our way to extinction and Global Warming might just one of the possible *signs* that the Earth can no longer sustain our abuse.

Go ahead and argue that Global Warming doesn't exist...but I dare you to try to argue that pouring dioxin or dry cleaning chemicals or pesticides into our water supply isn't having any effect at all on the world around us. Go ahead...put your kids face up against your SUV tail pipe and tell her to take a deep breath if you think it's so harmless.

OUR pollution is killing off the coral reefs and ocean life, we are blowing off the tops of mountains, and yes, changing weather patterns by cutting down entire continents of forests so we can graze cattle for hamburgers.

Toxic plastics that fill our landfills and never break down so your kid can have some plastic toy for 3 weeks or some cheap party favor tossed after barely a glance. Disposable diapers are steeped in DIOXIN, the most toxic chemical known to humans and then thrown into landfills to poison our water supplies to make like more *convenient* for you. Exhaust and toxic fumes in the manufacture of innumerable toxic products from cleaning chemicals to dry cleaning services abound and an almost inexhaustible supply of toxic chemicals...are being poured by the billions of tons into our oceans and rivers and air daily...into our relatively small eco-system.... Just how much do you think the Earth can take?

Just as a rose by any other name would smell as doesn't much matter what you call warming or over's all leading us to the same ugly end.

dude, follow the $$$$ Al Gore owns the companies that will be trading carbon credits. Also, During the Jurassic Age there was no ice on the poles. Global Warming and cooling comes from the SUN

The hoax of man-made global warming has now been so completely debunked that this report is even sillier than it sounds.

I find this fascinating. The truth is that human psychology is the reason people again and again believe the sky is falling down when history shows that it never does.

It is those people who have watched the history of these kinds of 'scientific' claims who are least likely to believe.

Scientific consensus in 1809 was that taking a pint or so of blood out of a sick man was the right way to cure him. I could make a long list of things 'scientists' believed that have proven to be false, many much more recently, but the space is limited. Do your own research. History has not been kind to scientific consensus.

The whole POINT of the Global Warming argument is that HUMAN ACTIVITY is POLLUTING our planet to a point of no return. If you want to continue to believe that our behavior isn't changing the climate, fine...but what Al Gore and others are REALLY trying to tell you is that we are POLLUTING our way to extinction and Global Warming might just one of the possible *signs* that the Earth can no longer sustain our abuse.

The "climate-change-as-myth-wishers" commenting here have proven the need to understand what will wake Americans up to climate change. The rest of the world is moving to take action while Americans munch on stubborn ignorance like sheep, too lazy (perhaps too unintelligent??) to research the facts (not the "pretend facts" pedalled by fossil fuel backed "science"), and too addicted to hate-filled partisan bickering. There is no superiority of right vs wrong in what we are facing globally; let's be strong enough to stop bad behaviors (verbally and materially) and get to work. This is the United States of America and we know how to get things done.

Psychologists ask and try to answer why Americans are so resistant to the idea of global warming and climate change. Good question. Maybe it's because some are as loony as the face of the moon. Perhaps these are the same people who still believe that the earth is flat, that NASA faked the 1969 landing on the moon, that cigarettes cause lung cancer, and that President Obama really is a US citizen.

And, shucks, who really believes the earth is warming dangerously, anyway? How about the National Climate Data Center, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Lawrence LIvermore Labs, and such magazines as the National Geographic and Science? Do they all merely march to the tune of Al Gore, International Communism (now, apparently, largely underground) and, of course, the Illuminati?

In other words -- as Bob Dylan once so famously claimed -- you don't really need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

I would like to actually take the time to make an intelligent point but the comments in this article are so ignorantly posted it's ridiculous. I don't have the time to respond to each one and explain how they are wrong. Man made climate change is a proven fact we just don't know to what extent it is versus natural climate change. Red actually brings up a point that I try to stick to which is that we are over polluting one way or another and we need to stop. Why would you want to fight against people who are just trying to help clean up this place where you live? To justify your consumerist lifestyle is the only thing I can figure. If I put a generator in your refrigerator do you think it's going to stay the same temperature? Why wouldn't the same thing apply to the earth as a whole. There were 247 million cars registered in the U.S. in 2007. You don't think that 247 million engines running at 200-300 degree is going to have any effect? That doesn't even include carbon output. Not to mention it's really our livestock that's creating the biggest carbon output and no one ever talks about it. McDonald's is probably the largest contributor to the human carbon foot print out of any individual group. I think we should focus more on shifting the fast food industry off of beef and onto a non carbon releasing animal like ostrich. I think eliminating fast food beef burgers would do more for the environment then c4c ever will.

Interesting. Since when have psychologists all of a sudden become experts on climate change?

The American Psychological Association (APA), who issued the above mentioned report, is closely connected to Capitol Hill. Or that’s what they say on their website. We can safely conclude that the APA with their 150.000 members is in fact a political force with a political agenda and lots of funds. Their member psychologists are being urged to jump on the global warming bandwagon and to move that agenda forward. That’s actually in the report.
We welcome all psychologists to the wonderful world of climate change. We need your expertise on how to pummel some ideas into the unsuspecting minds of the general public. There’s quite a bit of money for you on the table, if you happen to be in the top of APA’s power structure.

It is a well known fact psychologists are just as susceptible to propaganda, peer pressure, emotional blackmail and bribary as other people.
Besides, psychologists are known to bring their expertise to any field whenever they are called upon to do so. For a fee of course. They assist governments in the scientific torturing of 'suspects'. They assist governments in propaganda efforts and influencing the masses (no matter what the agenda of that government). They work for the advertisement industry to improve sales, no matter what is being sold, to whom, or at what price.
No problem. We all have to make a living.
To be thorough, psychologists can be helpful at times to a number of people who find themselves in some sort of a rut.

Now back to APA’s report.

Of course a psychologist could never live in denial. When a psychologist says you’re in denial because you are sceptical about global warming, you must be in denial. After all, climate change is the psychologist’s field of expertise. Right?

Three things are worth taking note of here.

First, there's the presupposition that manmade climate change is a fact. But is it? In fact, there’s a vast body of scientific evidence pointing to the contrary. The very dependable ice core records show there is no connection at all between CO2 and climate change. And what’s more, in 1998 the slight rise of the global temperature came to a halt, and over the last two years global temperatures have been dropping. But the climate scientists who actually work in the field with real scientific and measurable data must be living in denial. Of course they are. After all, when psychologists say they are, it must be so. Let’s not mention that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) has NEVER produced any scientific report showing climate change is connected to CO2. Why not? Because there is absolutely no proof for it.

Second, it looks like the psychologists who wrote that report are themselves in 'the global warming trance'. It’s time to snap out of it. Global cooling has arrived. If you don’t believe it, do some google research.

And third, if these psychologists are not in the global warming trance, their cooperation is bought and payed for by whoever hired them to write that report. No problem. Ethics and morals is after all some bizarre medieval concept. And we all have to make a living.

What’s appalling about it is that psychologists use their authority to pose here as specialists on the topic of climate change. Which they are not. The fact that APA psychologists are on the alarmist bandwagon does not mean there’s any connection between CO2 and climate change. It can mean only two things. It can mean psychologists can be bought. There’s plenty of historical evidence for that. Or it means psychologists are human, fallible, and can be hypnotised and influenced just as easily as the next guy.

I’m going to count to three now, and when I say ‘three’ you will snap out of the global warming trance. One, two, three.

Welcome to the real world. That wasn’t too hard was it?

"but what Al Gore and others are REALLY trying to tell you is that we are POLLUTING our way to extinction and Global Warming might just one of the possible *signs* that the Earth can no longer sustain our abuse."

ROTFLMAO If Al Gore really believed that, why does he use more energy in a month than most households in a year? Why does he leave his limo idling and the heater on when he testifies before Congress? Don't tell me he negates it by "buying credits" - what does that mean? As long as you are rich enough, you can pollute all you want? Do as I say, not as I do? The man is a JOKE.

Many scientists first thought there could be a correlation between GHG emissions and global climate, but as more and more evidence has revealed that the link is weak at best, only those who have a stake politically or financially have kept beating the drum, and their loyal followers keeping the faith.

Regarding the earth cooling recently, please see the chart on this web page:



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