Monday, August 15, 2011

Climate skeptics and white conservative men

I recommend the articles on this site as an antidote to the climate skepticism being fostered by News International (see today's Herald Sun) and Australia's howler-in chief.

In particular take a look at the article by David Roberts called:"Stuff white people like: denying climate change". Here is an extract:

"There's a study running soon in the journal Global Environmental Change called "Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States." It analyzes poll and survey data from the last 10 years and finds that ... are you sitting down? ... conservative white men are far more likely to deny the threat of climate change than other people.

OK, that's no surprise to anyone who's been awake over the last decade. But the paper goes beyond that to put forward some theories about why conservative white men (CWM) are so loathe to accept climate change. The explanation is some mix of the following, all of which overlap in various ways:
  • First there's the "white male effect" -- generally speaking, white males are less concerned with a variety of risks. This probably has to do with the fact that they are less exposed to risk than other demographics, what with running things and all.
  • Then, as Chris Mooney notes, there's the "social dominance orientation" of conservatives, who see social life as following the law of the jungle. One's choice is to dominate or be dominated; that is the natural order of things. Such folk are leery of climate change solutions premised on fairness or egalitarianism.
  • Then there are the well-understood "system-justifying tendencies" of conservatives. The authors explain that conservatives ...
  • ... strongly display tendencies to justify and defend the current social and economic system. Conservatives dislike change and uncertainty and attempt to simplify complexity. Further, conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males' strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change."

I also recommend his follow up article: "How do you solve a problem like conservative white men?"  There are some good arguments here  which resonate with my own view that we have gotten ourselves into the wrong conversation.  It is not that climate change is not important it is just that it is the wrong framing of the issue.  We needs conversations of hope and transformation as well as ones that embrace the complexity of our situation - the intersections of loss of biodiversity, resource, particularly oil depletion, income inequality, urban congestion and city dysfunction and post carbon societies.

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