One of the most alarming trends researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found in a new study is that the general public is becoming increasingly skeptical that global warming exists, even as the scientific community is becoming increasingly certain of its reality.
Among scientists, issues raised by skeptics have been addressed with solid arguments, and experts who at first were not convinced that climate change was occurring bowed to the data they were presented with. However, the general public is not willing to accept sound arguments.
The issue of whether or not to accept global warming as a reality has more to do with the changes each individual has to make in themselves. Finally coming to terms that climate change is real implies dealing with the fact that you are part of the problem, and therefore need to change your habits.
This is frightening to many, and others still are unwilling to take the necessary steps. So the vast majority of the public prefers to hide its fear and resistance to change behind the shady studies of various naysayers and TV show hosts promoting the agenda of big oil corporations
The MIT team determined that the public cannot be swayed by rational arguments, since their very belief that global warming is not happening is based on feelings, not facts. Researchers were able to establish some of the aspects of climate change that make it difficult for people to understand it.
According to MIT Sloan School of Management Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management John Sterman, the growing disconnect can be bridged by explaining these difficult concepts in a way that would make them clear even to laymen.
“When experimentation is impossible, when the consequences of our decisions unfold over decades and centuries, simulation becomes the main – perhaps the only – way we can discover for ourselves how complex systems work, what the impact of different policies might be, and thus integrate science into decision making,” he says
The new study the expert and his team conducted was a part of a series of works published in a special October issue of the journal Climate Change. This special edition of the magazine was dedicated to exploring ways of improving communication between scientists and the public on this issue.
“In the U.S., at least, more and more people disagree with the science. Despite the enormous efforts and success of the IPCC and scientific community in assessing climate change and the risks it poses, their efforts to communicate those results are not working,” Sterman explains.
“This is denial of the scientific facts. Political ideology, not science, increasingly determines what people believe to be true about the physical world,” the MIT expert argues.
“If you believe that responding to climate change will hurt your industry or increase government control over your life, one way out is to construct a worldview in which it’s not happening. Telling people facts doesn’t change their beliefs,” he adds.
Furthermore, “you have very powerful vested interests seeking to confuse the public, for ideological and pecuniary reasons,” the investigator says.
“Most people think if we stabilize emissions, we’ll stabilize the climate. But that’s wrong. If we stabilize emissions today, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to grow,” Sterman concludes.