Another Dumb Climate Psychology Paper

  • Date: 03/02/15
  • Paul Matthews, IPCC Report blog

A biased paper promoting political activism, exacerbating division and with a main conclusion that has already been stated many times in the literature. How did this rubbish get published? Oh, it’s in Nature.

A paper Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities was published yesterday in Nature Climate Change. The six authors, Bliuc et al, come from Social Science and Psychology departments in Australia. There is also an associated News & Views article by Tom Postmes, Psychology: Climate change and group dynamics.

The paper is truly awful, in so many ways, and effectively illustrates the blinkered thinking that is endemic in the field, nicely summarised by Andy West in his recent post at Climate etc. The following paragraphs raise some of the problems with the paper.

It starts badly, with unquestioning assertion of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. As usual this is stated in an unclear way, “97% agree that climate change is caused by humans” (what, some of it? Most of it? All of it?), a feature that Ben Pile refers to as consensus without an object.

Then the paper simply declares that

“The public is divided between climate change ‘believers’ (whose views align with those of the scientific community) and ‘sceptics’ (whose views are in disagreement with those of the scientific community)”

It’s as simple as that. It’s us v them. The goodies and the baddies. Although there is a brief mention later on of multiple shades of opinion, this is dismissed with the statement “we argue that there is value in seeing climate change believers and sceptics as conflicting opinion-based groups.” Yet the paper and the News & Views piece talk about overcoming divisions, and conflict reduction – reducing a division that they themselves have artificially created… This isn’t just stupid – it’s really damaging.

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