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A rogues gallery of casual climate denial

  • 16 September 2019


From overly sheltered baby boomers to millennials too fatigued with the state of the world to care if another glacier dies, the reality of climate change can be a lot to handle. Sometimes ignorance is the more appealing option. Here's a snapshot of the people living with their heads in the sand, employing tactics including pessimism, cognitive dissonance and deflections to stay where they are.

Brett the Small: It's understandable that Brett feels powerless. He'd always thought that by 2030, he'd have kids, a spouse and a mortgage. In addition to his nuclear family, Brett also gets to look forward to climate catastrophe — not that he feels he has a say in the matter. 'Climate change isn't really something the average person can do something about. It's really up to other people to fix it, like scientists, corporations and the government. There's not really a lot I can do.' Even though he's right that reducing carbon emissions genuinely requires work on an intertwined corporate and political level, Brett has never heard of activism or completely underestimates what it can achieve.

Alice the Glossy: Unlike Brett, Alice understands that successfully reducing carbon emissions is something that everyone can work towards. While she understands that everyone can get involved in the fight against climate change, she misinterprets the real priority for reducing carbon. 'Look, I'm not really prepared to go zero-waste to reduce my carbon footprint. Or go vegan. It's just too hard for the average person to commit to.' Alice has illustrated a problem (e.g. how consumers are blamed for corporate misdeeds) but glossed over the problem.

Brenda the Meteorologist: Brenda sees all of these bizarre weather events and has a rational explanation: 'The climate is meant to change. It's natural for there to be increased cyclones, increased frequency and duration of droughts as well as losing entire glaciers. This kind of change is normal. That's what the weather does.' Maybe it's self-deception, maybe it's not understanding the difference between climate and weather.

Derek the Doorstep: While he finds it bewildering that the summers have been hotter than usual, Derek's not completely convinced that the climate is changing on an unprecedented scale. All the scary things about climate change that pop up in his Facebook feed (e.g. news of dead glaciers, melting ice sheets and starving polar bears) seem to be happening in another part of the world. The Arctic is a long way