Reasoning with climate change deniers “pointless”
Last updated on 15 February 2013, 8:52 am
By Ed King
Debating climate change with steadfast contrarians is pointless, because their underlying beliefs are based less on scientific data and more on their life experiences.
That’s the view of author Will Storr, who has recently finished working on a new book exploring why many people refuse to accept commonly agreed facts.
Storr’s quest to meet ‘Enemies of Science’ saw him meet infamous climate sceptic Lord Monckton, who he termed a perfect ‘hero maker’, that is a person who cannot believe they are wrong about anything.
“There’s no point in debating with someone like Lord Monckton on the science. You could talk about the hockey graph and individual points of data – but underneath there is the whole story of his life,” he said.
“These little facts aren’t going to shift the story of his life. It’s shifting everything, and everything is not going to shift.
“The whole story of his life is that this is a devious plot by the totalitarian left, so one study, one meta-analysis is not going to shift that.”
Storr’s experiences while working on the book led him to subscribe to the theory that many people refuse to accept the concept of climate change because it would compromise their political principles.
In particular many who class themselves as ‘conservative’ are suspicious of any agenda supported by the ‘left’, especially if the solution involves any form of global governance.
Storr cites Monckton as an obvious example of this. When they spoke he railed against what he perceives is an attempt by the European Union and United Nations to create a form of world government
“He hates the word ‘consensus’, he describes himself as a lone wolf going against the pack,” Storr said. “This is how he sees himself and this is how lots of people see themselves – he’s not unique”.
But Storr’s interviews also revealed many distrust the motives of climate activists, especially those linked to environmental NGOs that have historically been to the left of politics.
“One of the guys I met was professor Jonathan Haidt, who is an expert on psychology of religion and psychology of our moral beliefs – and he said to me if you want to find irrationality seek the things that make people sacred,” Storr said.
“He said ‘I have no doubt that climate change is real and it will have a deleterious effect on the planet, but I do not trust the left to tell me the truth about climate change because they have made it sacred, and they cannot bear anything that goes against that narrative’.
“In the same way people on the right make the free market sacred, they have an ideological and emotional belief that the free market is a force for good in the world – and with these debates you have a clash of hero narratives.”
For more details on The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science by Will Storr visit the Pan Macmillan website