What We Think About

States of Denial (15)

Stoknes presents some quotes that illustrate denial from members of our House of Representatives. He goes on to say, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to decide upon and make up their own scientific facts. You may be free to state that you don’t like some scientific results. But not to twist or label ‘junk’ or ‘pseudo-science’ those you don’t like. Nor to communicate cherry-picked subsets of facts in any way that pleases you” (16). This point resonated with me because it describes spot on what so many people do (not even just for climate science, but for many other disciplines of work). These people are not providing critique or contra arguments (which are, in fact, a necessary part in any scientific field), but instead appear to discredit the other side by means of sarcasm, mockery, and the manner and style of speaking.

When it comes to the term ‘denial’, I think many people (myself included) forget that this is not just a meaningless word thrown around to arbitrarily label people whose views don’t match with our own. ‘Denial’ is an actual psychological concept that you can learn about in any intro psych class in any university. It’s a real thing. I think that people who actually fall under the category of ‘deniers’ often fail to recognize that they are actually denying whatever it is that they oppose. Stoknes says “denial is lying so hard you actually come to believe in your own lie” (16). They truly believe that their logic is sound and take the world ‘denier’ as an insult.

Having a conversation with a denier is frustrating at best, particularly when you recognize the tactics they use such as conspiracies, fake experts, selectivity, fake analogies and logical fallacies, and impossible expectations. One can scroll the feed of any social media and easily pick out the deniers who just can’t seem to be reasoned with. It’s disheartening to those who are passionate about their field.

Climate Attitudes: Alarmed, Concerned, or Dismissive (57)

This section ties well with ‘States of Denial’. He discusses the three components that make up a person’s attitude, namely an affective, behavioral, and cognitive. These translate to our emotion and feeling connected to something, what kind of action we take toward it, and what thoughts, knowledge, and beliefs come up from memory when attending to the issue. An attitude is strong and consistent if all three components are aligned. Furthermore, attitudes can be learned or adopted fast, but once learned it is difficult to change it on our own. This makes it difficult to persuade a denier that there are other viable perspectives to an issue. Take climate change as an example: scientists have increasingly tapped into the cognitive component of people’s attitudes, but have done little to target the other two. To address this, the media booms with pictures that are the result of climate change—skinny polar bears, climate refugees, etc. However, our culture has become numb to these pictures over the years. Stoknes suggests that in addition to our lack of attention toward the images, the message being transferred with them is subconsciously being heard as an accusation: not only is the human influence on the climate system too high, but our western culture in particular is at fault (60). Even though that may be correct factually, there is a condemnatory tone in climate communication that creates strong associations with fear and guilt, indirectly underscoring that we should feel bad about the way we live—hence the birth of climate deniers—because the underlying message is shaming.


Scientists Fear Climate Data Gap as Trump Aims at Satellites

The Trump administration released a budget blueprint last month and one section in particular is concerning climate researchers. This section proposed eliminating four of NASA’s climate science missions, including instruments to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of CO2, and other elements of the atmosphere and oceans.

In the past, NASA has built and operated climate satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has operated weather satellites. While there is some overlap, weather satellites focus on basics like clouds, winds, temperatures and moisture to provide information for forecasts. Most of NASA’s instruments are designed to provide long-term records of phenomena like ice-sheet thickness, sea-level rise, vegetation changes and the makeup of the atmosphere.

After a scare at the beginning of this decade when it looked like NOAA might have no functioning weather satellites for a time — a potentially disastrous situation — the agency now has plans and funding to replace its satellites as required. But there are currently few plans to replace NASA’s instruments, many of which are at or near the end of their useful lives.

Climate monitoring has fallen into a gap between the agencies. The priority has been on gathering weather data because we understand the value of weather data. That priority is reflected in the proposed Trump budget, which eliminates the NASA missions while also calling for full funding of NOAA’s replacement orbiters.

Long before President Trump was elected, climate researchers warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities — which include satellites as well as air- and surface-based instruments — were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties. Continuous data records are crucial to climate researchers to improve their models to better understand how the climate is changing. Elimination of any of the missions would be a further blow.

To learn more about NASA’s climate satellites, click here!




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