Cognitive Dissonance and Climate Change
It’s been a rather depressing weekend for Sustainability, what with the US Government joining those beacons of liberty Russia and Saudi Arabia to downgrade the status of the latest IPCC report, and then Paris going up in flames, sparked by an eco-tax on petrol and diesel. Depressingly, some on the left in the UK, such as arch-Corbynista Owen Jones, cheered on les gilets jaunes as they saw the riots as undermining the ‘centrist poster boy’ Emmanuel Macron, inadvertently joining President Trump in his derision of the French President’s attempts to tackle climate change. Strange times, strange bedfellows.
About a decade ago, a climate change charity I was on the board of carried out some research which found that:
a. Most people want action on climate change, but;
b. The very same people were shocked (even angry) at the thought they’d have to change their own lifestyles as a result.
We find such cognitive dissonance all the time – so many of us can believe we are holding a principled belief and then fail horribly to even try to put that into action. Confrontation – ‘we must call that out’ – leads to anger and retrenchment, not epiphany.
This is why I try to avoid preaching on climate change. If somebody doesn’t get it, they don’t get it and telling them to get it won’t help. If, conversely, ask people why we should act, and what we as individuals should do, you’ll get much better engagement in the topic, and even personal action. I call this Green Jujitsu – try it.