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On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Mlazen, that's part of why I suggested that we want to work with like-minded people! If you are in a group with someone, if they see you as like-minded, they have more respect for you going in, and it's easier to find common language. But being nice does make a difference. I did a presentation on nuclear power, and felt beat up after all the hostile questions. At the end, several people came running up to me and said that went really well—anyone who was undecided before that last question isn't now. They told me that people might or might not understand the details, but they could tell who was naughty and who was nice.

 

July 30, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Roger, I don't disagree. But what I want to emphasize with this post is the possibility that this method helps tone down the hostility, helps move us toward a willingness to find solutions to problems other than establishing group membership.

July 28, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Roger, let me begin by apologizing for misinterpreting what you said, and also saying how much I like the Dewey quote. Take 2: does this work better?

Let's begin with nuclear—the range of scenarios I've seen show nuclear power increasing even without a cost for greenhouse gas emissions, but not as rapidly. Yes there are high capital costs (though lower than for renwables), but nuclear has other advantages. 

Nuclear power is not the majority of the solution, let alone all, but it is important. It is not all of the electricity solution, and for a while, is of little importance in transportation, and for a while, of little importance in industry where fossil fuels are used for heat rather than electricity, and of little importance in reducing climate change caused by our agricultural practices. I focus on it because it is important, and because the controversy interferes with addressing climate change—a fair number of people devote way too much of their time on climate change to opposing nuclear power, and very little to opposing climate change. The tension over these fights goes beyond the one issue, to allowing some to justify denying climate change, as I say above. If by constraints of liquid fuel you are saying that nuclear is not currently important for transportation, yes. If you mean something else, please explain.

It was what you said about economics that I reacted most to, and may have misunderstood. It's more than competitive accumulation, or accumulation with perhaps just an eye to comfort and pleasure—addressing climate change also requires a GHG cost on flying to visit family members, or visiting other cultures to learn more. We need to pay for road maintenance and sewers infrastructure maintenance, and for GHG because we are polluting. We need to pay much more because we have delayed paying for either so long, and costs are much higher.

We may agree up to the last sentence. What if there are ways to keep the temperature increase below 2°C (there likely aren't and 2°C may be too high), and yet we fall far short of cooperatively providing "that necessary minimum of food", etc? What are you trying to say here?

July 28, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Roger, social scientists, eg, culturalcognition.net , the successors to the Cultural Theory of Risk people, separate us into 4 cultures, or worldviews, based on hierarcy vs egalitarianism, and individualism vs communitarianism. We favor problems based on the distortion of the lens through which we see the world, we favor solutions based on that lens. Some of what we see is valid, although probably too simple. A lot of what we see is not.

When the question of climate change comes up, people often favor solutions they feel will solve other problems they have long thought important. And there are other important problems in the world. A lot. But at this point, International Energy Agency and others no longer believe it possible to keep temperature increase below 2°C by 2100. Assuming 2°C is a solution—150,000 died in 2000, according to WHO, from disease, landslides, floods, and starvation, and surely many more this year. Yet I hear you reject nuclear power, one of the larger solutions to climate change, because it's not good enough. You use arguments that I haven't seen in International Energy Agency and other high-level reports. A social scientist might ask, how do you test your thinking?

Scientists are challenged by Nature, their worldviews are always under attack. Many in the public trying to sort through the public argument often pay attention to whether arguments show awareness of other worldviews—do those who worry about climate change, for example, accept solutions different from those they favored before they ever began to worry about climate change? I have heard a number of people explicitly reject the seriousness of climate change beause so much of those worried about climate change also oppose nuclear power. (I explain that scientists are worried about climate change, and support nuclear power, but some insist on their right to make up their minds based on what the public thinks.)

I won't argue the economy because it's not an issue on which I am knowledgeable. I do alert people to the costs being higher than most people want to pay—economists will be correct or not in their assesment of the effect on the economy. I do alert people that one of the needs of policy is to interfere with our "follow our bliss" sense that we can do whatever we want whenever we want. I occasionally let people know that economic justice is necessary for the public to buy in. I talk and write about these because they are solutions to climate change, not because they are the solutions I favored before I heard of climate change, even if I did. (I am particularly reluctant to let go of following my bliss.)

I respond in this manner because I hear from your style of writing that you want to solve a large number of the world's problems. Similarly, I hear from others that we can't address climate change until we have addressed campaign finance reform, or child raising, or ... And so in my heart, and this is my problem, I wonder if these people wholeheartedly want to address climate change. If I hear it that way, there may be others.

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

As I say in the post, I start with the facts, and then include a lot of why social scientists say the public is not open to the facts. This helps open people to the facts. I need to reformat the discussion for groups with a lot of climate deniers, but have contacted someone about spreading this presentation over 2 weeks—the controversy I address is nuclear power, but their group includes a small number of vocal climate skeptics/deniers. If this works, I'll have a test on how this works on that group. The presentation made sense to a lot of nuclear skeptics.

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Brian, I found the opposite is true. By bringing in the social science along with the facts, people became much more open-minded. Now to find some formats with a greater number of climate deniers/skeptics.

I recommend Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, which I intend to reread (and have found people who are willing to discuss it!)

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Yes, bringing up demand upsets people beyond their ideological blinders, even for those who belong to the cultural worldview where many favor changing behavior. See culturalcognition.net for more on ideology.

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Nathan, thanks for finding Alley's numbers. I do know that I hadn't found waste heat on IPCC's list of major forcings. Also, I would guess that if waste heat were the only change we were making, Earth would eventually radiate it away.

Jim, in addition to checking the IPCC reference I provided, you may also want to check a first year college physics text, as your use of the term entropy and your units for entropy are non-traditional.

Social scientists who are looking at why the public discussion is such a mess include motivated reasoning—finding sources that agree with your preconceptions, working out an end result that agrees with you preconceptions. I find it useful to check my understanding against what Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says — do they accept/ignore solutions in the same order and to the same degree that I do? Rarely. I've often found mistakes in my thinking while reading their material. There's that famous quote, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." Nor will a simple solution to climate change survive, no matter how attractive it may be.

Nathan and Jim, thanks for the discussion of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Last I heard, there was concern that all marine energy systems would be as damaging to marine ecosystems as dams are to land. As I understand it, recent experiments are looking at cost, ecosystem damage, reliability, etc to see how much ocean systems can contribute. We need all the energy solutions that we can think of, and a few more, so we can only hope that experiments go well.

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Jim, are you referring to the heat waste that is a necessary part of every thermal power plant, from fossil fuel to biopower to thermal solar to nuclear? Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not list that as a major forcing.


This post focuses on what social scientists say about the motivations and methods of those who disagree with scientific consensus, especially on climate change and nuclear power, and how bringing their insights into the discussion appears to improves the discussion.

July 24, 2012    View Comment    

On Decarbonizing California requires relying more on electricity, once it's low carbon

As far as I am aware, people in policy analysis are aware of degradation with time, lower capacity factor at higher temperatures for solar panels, capacity factors for wind, the poor overlap between when the wind blows and when it is needed, etc.

I'm convinced that if they are overestimating wildly, that information will be discussed soon, and the newer analysis will include the results of the discussion.

My understanding is that capacity factor for wind is higher in the US and Mongolia than in Europe or Japan. Much higher.

While some of what you say is true, I understand that we still need renewables to confront climate change. I would hope that we all spend more time fighting climate change than expert analysis, which will evolve over time as errors are found. I'm sure that there are errors, and suspect that the authors are welll, but analysis has to be done with the best information available at the time.

My question is, where are all these windmills, etc, and nuclear reactors to be sited? Presumably nuclear reactors can be placed on sites now holding fossil fuel plants (in addition to sites built for nuclear—4 in CA, 2 operating and 2 not), but CA coal is built out of state. And are natural gas campuses large enough to meet the legal requirements for nuclear reactors?

February 7, 2012    View Comment    

On Decarbonizing California requires relying more on electricity, once it's low carbon

Willem, assumptions, and where they come from and how valid are they?

In the supporting online mateiral, the baseline assumption is that electricity will increase 66% between 2010 and 2050, in part because energy intensity decreases.

February 6, 2012    View Comment    

On The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan

Bill, thanks, using the actual numbers for Vogtle, it ended up costing 13 times what was predicted. Since $1 in 1972 was worth $3 in 1989, that's about 4 - 5 times in real dollars—not sure which years are relevant. (I wasn't talking real dollars; I should have looked up the price of Vogtle myself.)

Nathan, never is a really long time. There is good reason to believe that a number of renewables will cost as little as fossil fuels by mid-century or earlier, even if you consider the intermittent nature of some renewables. Wind is somewhat limited in that at some point the costs will rise as the most desirable locations have been taken.  International Energy Agency estimates that prices of solar will reach fossil fuel levels by 2035—I don't know their assumptions, eg, are they assuming fossil fuel prices will rise? I hope to blog on this sometime soon... I'm not sure that this means that we need to subsidize deployment at quite the level we have been.

With a signficant cost added to greenhouse gas, in many US locations wind would not need any subsidies.

December 2, 2011    View Comment