Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scared straight: Out of believing the climate-change story

                                                               Paul Souders - Corbis

Time writer Bryan Walsh reported yesterday that:
"According to forthcoming research by the Berkeley psychologists Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg, when people are shown scientific evidence or news stories on climate change that emphasize the most negative aspects of warming — extinguished species, melting ice caps, serial natural disasters — they are actually more likely to dismiss or deny what they're seeing. Far from scaring people into taking action on climate change, such messages seem to scare them straight into denial."
Walsh remembers working on scary, global-warming stories that reach a peak in 2006 when Time titled its cover story on climate change, crowned with a photo of a lonely polar bear on an ice floe, Be Worried. Be Very Worried
"I know why we used the language we did," Walsh recalls. "Scientists were telling us that global warming really had the potential to wreck the future of the planet, and we wanted to get that message across to readers — even if it meant scaring the hell out of them."
But all those scare tactics--based on the truth or not--may have had the opposite effect. In his piece,Climate-Change Strategy: Be Afraid — but Only a Little, Walsh reports on how Willer and Feinberg conducted their research and he speculates on how it might effect the future debate over climate change.
Environmental organizations whose stock in trade has been the Chicken Little Sky is Falling Approach might do well to give this story and the research it reports on some long, hard thought.  
What do you think?  Let us know in the comment box below.
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