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Thu May 21, 2020, 08:51 AM

"Socially Organized Denial" - Anonymous Interviews W. UK MPs Explain Why Nothing Changes On Climate


All the politicians I spoke to accepted the science of climate change. And yet they downplayed the consequences. They showed a reluctance to discuss how climate change would reshape human society. A newly elected MP, talking to me in the House of Commons, told me that climate “terrified” him. “Where we’re sat right now might well be underwater, right next to the Thames. I wouldn’t fancy our chances.” I asked why, if it’s so significant, it wasn’t discussed much in parliament. But he didn’t answer. He couldn’t, or didn’t want to, linger on this point: he steered the discussion on to electoral cycles, the health service, the economy. He was back in the manageable normality he knew, rejecting the reality of a climate-changed future that had, just a few moments before, terrified him.


Back in 2001, the anthropologist Kari Norgaard spent a year living in a rural Norwegian village. That winter, the weather was unusually warm. The lake didn’t freeze over, and the local ski resort had not received any snow by mid-December, having to resort to artificial snow – something that had not happened before. Income from the ski industry was reduced, and the tradition of ice fishing was interrupted. When talking about this and other weather patterns, villagers mentioned climate change, and seemed to have a good level of understanding. And yet climate was not something that people factored into their daily lives.

Norgaard uncovered a paradox: people were aware of, and concerned by, climate change, but chose to ignore it. It was an unspoken collective turning away. She asked: “How could the possibility of climate change be deeply disturbing and almost completely invisible – simultaneously unimaginable and common knowledge?” She labelled this phenomenon “socially organised denial”. Norgaard pointed to a range of strategies people used that allowed them to continue as if climate change wasn’t happening. Some said that Norway was a relatively small country, with insignificant emissions compared to the US. There was also a widespread sense that, as a rural community, they lived simply and “with nature”. By telling each other these and other stories, they created the fiction that all could continue unchanged.

Socially organised denial is alive and well in the Commons. It is exacerbated by very deliberate strategies from those who have a stake in high-carbon activities: countries, and companies, that depend on fossil fuels. As a result, it is surprisingly difficult for politicians to talk openly about the need to transition away from fossil fuels. Witness Nicola Sturgeon, leader of a progressive Scottish government that champions strong climate commitments, while also supporting continued oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. When challenged, her reply is always the same: the industry “cannot be shut down overnight”. She’s right. But her dismissive response shies away from the science, which tells us very clearly that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, and that we need a plan to move away from them, and create opportunities and jobs elsewhere – not overnight, but urgently.

The toxic combination of socially organised denial and deliberate lobbying has created a problem that I’ve come to think of as the “feelgood fallacy”. So far, climate action has focused overwhelmingly on low-carbon solutions such as developing renewable energy or offering grants for electric vehicles. These are very valuable schemes, but all this positive activity masks a deeper problem. Little has been done to curb carbon-intensive activity. New coal mines are opened and new airports built with little discussion of climate impacts. If we are constantly finding new ways to dig up and burn carbon, it won’t be enough just to ramp up renewable energy. Study after study shows that meeting climate goals means phasing out the extraction and use of oil, coal and gas – yet no mainstream political party has a coherent plan to do this.



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Reply "Socially Organized Denial" - Anonymous Interviews W. UK MPs Explain Why Nothing Changes On Climate (Original post)
hatrack May 21 OP
Boomer May 21 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Thu May 21, 2020, 10:17 AM

1. Too little, too late

Rather ironic that so many people consider humans to be a superior being, when our long-term planning is on par with that of a lemming.

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