HOW SOCIAL CHANGE HAPPENS

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

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HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Haileybury Teacher Yang Ch'ng introduces International Cooperation on Climate Change - historical context.

CLIMATE CHANGE - FACT OR FICTION?

Is climate change – or global warming as it was known in the 1990s and 2000s – fact or fiction?

While more than 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human-induced climate change is a fact, as many as 50 percent of the public seem to perceive that scientists themselves are unsure about it.

Why is there this consensus gap? Why do scientists appear to be arguing against each other on the phenomenon of climate change? Is it a fact or is it fiction?

Just like tobacco companies and cigarettes in the 1950s, the oil industry has run powerful campaigns to make us doubt climate change – and it involves paying scientists behind the public’s eye.

 

climate change advertising campaign

An advertising campaign from the 1990s designed to undermine public support for climate change.

Read this BBC story on how the oil industry sparked a movement of climate change deniers.

BBC story on Climate change

As you read through it, you will see some of the strategies that energy giants employed to fight the facts:

ACADEMIC STRATEGIES

The industry recruited scientists to participate in their media outreach to gain academic legitimacy; many institutions that played down the risks of climate change were found to have received donations and funding from oil corporation giants.  

Many ‘expert scientists’ quoted by journalists to offer balance in their coverage of climate change were not actual experts in climate change but scientists with other credentials – and therefore, made arguments based on their beliefs rather than relevant research.

ECONOMIC STRATEGIES

Many think thanks and organisations that leaned right and were passionately against regulation opposed or denied climate change.

POLITICAL STRATEGIES

The industry framed climate change into an ideological belief: if you believed that climate change is man-made, you are by default a left-wing socialist, which in those days, was stigmatised

COGNITIVE BIASES AND CLIMATE SCIENCE MISINFORMATION

Sensationalist headlines are memorable and continue to push doubt and misinformation about climate change.

Sensationalist headlines are memorable and continue to push doubt and misinformation about climate change.

In 1988, NASA scientist Professor Hansen conducted a study and reported that he was ninety-nine percent certain that the earth was getting warmer and it was caused by the greenhouse gases resulting from human activity. He made predictions for how the earth’s temperature will rise over the next 30 years. As it turned out, his most moderate prediction came to be pretty close to what eventually happened. However, many articles continue to refute this by claiming headlines that climate change predictions have gone completely wrong.

Watch the video below to understand some of the reasons why people continue to doubt climate change predictions: The Difficulty of Climate Change Predictions.

You can also read pages 5 and 6 of the Climate Change Empowerment Handbook by the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

Two reasons have been listed and explained below. Can you think of any more?

MEDIA SENSATIONALISM

People tend to remember astonishing headlines such as wrong predictions instead of boring headlines where nothing controversial happens – ie predictions come true.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

People will look for information that they deem are true based on their own beliefs and values without scrutinising the actual data. Much of the information they find are often selectively chosen that may not be accurate.