In some ways Australia is ground zero in the climate change catastrophe. For whatever reasons, human-caused perturbations of climate are falling especially hard and especially early Down Under. Which means their politics are probably in some ways a predictor of what we can expect in other parts of the world as things get climatically weirder.
Anyway, I really liked this piece by Australian Stephan Lewandowsky:
The truth is out there. It’s more about American politics than Australian politics, but I still get a sense of the Australian reality seeping through:
The late Stephen Jay Gould referred to a fact as something that it would be “perverse to withhold provisional assent.” Notwithstanding the Academy’s clear statement about the existence of global warming and its human-made causes, recent surveys reveal that the majority of US Republicans do not accept this scientific fact.
Indeed, tragically and paradoxically, among Republicans acceptance of the science decreases with their level of education as well as with their self-reported knowledge: Whereas Democrats who believe they understand global warming better also are more likely to believe that it poses a threat in their lifetimes, among Republicans increased belief in understanding global warming is associated with decreased perception of its severity. The more they think they know, the more ignorant they reveal themselves to be.
What motivates people to reject trivially simple facts – such as the President’s place of birth – as well as more complex facts – such as insights from geophysics and atmospheric science?
The peer-reviewed psychological literature provides some insight into this question. Numerous studies converge onto the conclusion that there is a strong correlation between a person’s endorsement of unregulated free markets as the solution to society’s needs on the one hand, and rejection of climate science on the other. The more “fundamentalist” a person is disposed towards the free market, the more likely they are to be in denial of global warming.
But what do markets have to do with geophysics or the thermal properties of CO2?
The answer is that global warming poses a potential threat to laissez-faire business. If emissions must be cut, then markets must be regulated or at least “nudged” towards alternative sources of energy – and any possibility of regulation is considered a threat to the very essence of their worldview by those for whom the free market is humanity’s crowning achievement.
It is this deep psychological threat that in part explains the hyper-emotionality of the anti-science discourse: the frenetic alarmism about a “world government”, the rhetoric of “warmist” or “extremist” levelled at scientists who rely on the peer reviewed literature, the ready invocation of the spectre of “socialism” – they all point to the perception of threat so fundamental that even crazed beliefs can constitute an alluring antidote.