You can’t force people to change habits to curb climate change: researcher

“There’s [a] tendency toward denial”



MONTREAL — It’s not enough to just tell people about climate change: showing them and engaging them is far more effective.

The worst way to affect change in habits is to force rules and regulations on those who don’t believe.

These are just two of the observations put forward by some scientists at this week’s conference on the International Polar Year in Montreal.

On April 23 Prof. Christopher Rapley with University College London in England, gave a presentation with the theme “Knowledge to Action” on the ongoing efforts to engage people.

“What we have on one side is knowledge and other side are beliefs, values, attitudes and emotions,” Rapley said. “When the two sides collide, beliefs, values and emotions usually prevail.”

Rapley said the flawed premise is that we can continue to burn fossil fuels.

There needs to be urgent and co-ordinated efforts to change this train of thought, he said.

“Human carbon emissions keep accelerating, at a rate of 2.7 per cent in the past 100 years and up six per cent between 2009 and 2011,” Rapley said. “Public support and political commitment is decreasing at a time we need it most.”

A study conducted last year in the U.S. posed this question: Is climate change a problem?

“Thirteen per cent were alarmed, 28 per cent were concerned, 24 per cent were cautious, 10 per cent were disengaged, 12 per cent were doubtful and 12 per cent were dismissive. The last group were most motivated to stand up for their beliefs,” Rapley said of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

He pointed out that those groups on either end of the spectrum were the ones to have messengers trying to affect the opinions of those in the middle.

“People hear what they want to hear and there’s [a] tendency toward denial and disavowal. The deniers are well-funded, proactive, consistent, persistent and energetic.”

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