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Hollywood’s primer about climate denial highlights 5 myths that fuel scientific rejection

Hollywood’s primer about climate denial highlights 5 myths that fuel scientific rejection

A runner passes the outlines of burned homes, with unburned houses behind them

Every disaster movie opens with a scientist being ignored. “Don’t Look Up” is no exception – in fact, people ignoring or flat out denying scientific evidence is the point.

Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play astronomers who make an earth-shattering discovery, then attempt to convince the president to save humanity. It’s a satire that explores how individuals, scientists, the media and politicians respond when faced with scientific facts that are uncomfortable, threatening and inconvenient.

The movie is An allegory for climate changesThis video shows how people with the power to address global warming Willfully avoidHow those with vested interests could mislead people and how to take action. It also reflects science denying more broadly, including COVID-19.

The most important difference between the film’s premise and humanity’s actual looming crisis is that while individuals may be powerless against a comet, everyone can act decisively to stop fueling climate change.

Understanding the myths that fuel science denial can be helpful.

Research psychologists and authors “Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It”We are all too familiar with these aspects of science denial.

Myth #1: We can’t act unless the science is 100% certain

The first question President Orlean (Meryl Streep) asks the scientists after they explain that a comet is on a collision course with Earth is, “So how certain is this?” Learning that the certitude is 99.78%, the president’s chief of staff (Jonah Hill) responds with relief: “Oh great, so it’s not 100%!” Government scientist Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) replies, “Scientists never like to say 100%.”

Science’s strength is its reluctance at claiming 100% certainty. Scientists continue to search for more information, even when the evidence is clear. However, scientists continue to explore the other side of the coin. They recognize overwhelming evidenceIt is important to act upon it. The The evidence is overwhelming that Earth’s climate is changing in dangerous ways because of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, and it has been overwhelming for many years.

When politicians take a “let’s wait and see” attitude toward climate change (or “sit tight and assess,” as the movie puts it), suggesting they need more evidence before taking any action, it’s often a form of science denial.

Myth #2: The public cannot accept disturbing realities as they are described by scientists.

The title phrase, “Don’t Look Up,” portrays this psychological assumption and how some politicians conveniently use it as an excuse for inaction while promoting their own interests.

Anxiety can be a sign of anxiety Growing and understandable psychological responseClimate change. There are strategies that people can use to successfully cope with climate change anxiety, according to research. Becoming more informed and sharing your problem with others. This allows people to manage their anxiety while also taking steps to reduce the risks.

A 2021 international survey found that 80% people are actually willing to do it. Changes in their lives and work habitsto reduce the impacts of climate change

Myth #3: Technology will save us, so we don’t have to act

People often want to believe in a desired outcome, rather than face reality. This is what psychologists call “psychologists” Motivated reasoning.

For example, belief in a single technological solution like carbon captureThe possibility that technology, without the need to change policies, lifestyles, or practices, will solve the climate crisis may be more grounded than reality. Research suggests that technology can reduce our impact on climate change. However, there are some technological advances. It is unlikely that they will arrive quickly enough.

Such solutions are a form science denial because they divert attention from the important changes required in our work, life, and play.

Myth #4: Science predicts impending crises, but the economy is more important than everything.

Taking action to slow climate change will be expensive, but not acting has extraordinary costs – in lives lost as well as property.

Consider the financial impact of recent wildfires in Western Canada. Boulder County, Colorado lost nearly 1000 homes to wildfires. Fire on December 30, 2021After a hot and dry summer and fall, It is almost impossible to get any rain or snow. A study of California’s fires in 2018 – another hot, dry year – when the town of Paradise burned, Estimate the damageIncluding health care costs and economic disruptions, it is estimated at $148.5 billion.

A runner passes the outlines of burned homes, with unburned houses behind them
Boulder County, Colo. saw close to 1,000 homes destroyed by strong winds on December 30, 2021. The fire was started by a grassfire that had been whipped through an otherwise dry landscape.
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

When people say we can’t take action because action is expensive, they are in denial of the cost of inaction.

Myth #5- Our actions should always align to our social identity group

Individuals can feel pressured to choose based on the beliefs of their friends and family in a politically divided world. In the case of beliefs about science, this can have dire consequences – as the world has seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a dozen countries are affected by the disease. 825,000 people have died from COVID-19Even though powerful identity groups discouraged people from getting vaccines that could help them,

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A tractor drives down rows of crops spraying fertilizer.

The changing climate is causing viruses to forget about political affiliation. Rising global Temperatures, worsening storms and sea level rise will affect everyone in harm’s way, regardless of the person’s social group.

How to combat science denial – and climate change

Although a comet heading for Earth may leave little to the individual, This is not true for climate change.. People can change their practices to reduce carbon emissions. Take actionThis includes reducing fossil fuel use, converting energy to cleaner sources, and changing agricultural practices in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Check out our BookWe discuss the steps that educators, scientists communicators, policymakers, and individuals can take to address the science denial that is preventing us from moving forward on this pressing issue. Here are some examples:

  • Individuals can examine their beliefs and motivations about climate change and be open-minded to scientific evidence.

  • Educators can teach students about scientific information and how to evaluate it.

  • Science communicators can help scientists explain how they know it.

  • Scientists can be used to inform policymakers.

As scholars who help people make informed decisions about complex problems, our team encourages people to access science information and news from sources that are not part of their own identity groups. Get out of your social bubble. Listen to and communicate with others. Look up.

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