Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Written by: Maya Kattler-Gold
I recently wrote a post about the anxiety and fear of climate change that can leave many of us feeling hopeless. However, in this post, I want to focus on a larger issue at hand: climate denial. While some people find themselves dealing with the burden of impending climate change, there are still many people that are not ready to face it. Though a blatant denial of facts may be what first comes to mind when you hear the term ‘climate denial’, the major concern is that this issue can present itself even in people who don’t realize it.
In Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, Kari Marie Norgaard talks about 3 types of denial: literal, interpretive, and implicatory. The people who we usually think of as climate deniers, those who deny facts presented by credible sources, fall into the first two categories. They believe either that the facts that the earth is warming isn’t true, or give it different interpretations, like that this warming is due to a natural cycle in Earth’s climate.
The apathy many people display can be described as implicatory denial. Even if we believe in climate change, we might not behave in a way that reflects that. People often deny the implications of the facts of climate change. Our ability to go on with our lives without taking action is denial in a way. Many people believe in climate change, but still don’t really think about it or consider what should be done about it. Why do we do this? Psychological research of climate denial tells us that much of the time, climate change is too large and scary an idea to understand, and people use denial as a defense mechanism.
So what can we do to combat everyday climate denial, and instead motivate climate action? Since so many people feel overwhelmed, emphasizing simple things that individuals can do in their everyday lives can be an effective strategy. These everyday tasks aren’t necessarily important because of the environmental difference they can actually make, but because they can help make people believe that action against climate change is achievable. Once people start to feel more empowered and we’ve broken down this wall of denial, then they can help fight for the bigger changes that we actually need.