For me, climate change was only really perceptible when I met Pablo a few years ago. He was part of the crew of the container ship that was supposed to take me from France to Brazil. It was the beginning of a close and likely long friendship. But two years ago, the connection was suddenly cut off. I didn’t receive any responses to my emails and was really worried. I didn’t get another sign of life until months later: A fierce hurricane devastated Pablo Island, in the Philippines. Amid the chaos, his cell phone broke and his notebook containing contact details and passwords was lost.
There have always been tornadoes in the Philippines. However, many climate researchers assume that global warming will increase the intensity of such storms because they can absorb more energy from warmer waters. The German Weather Service also predicts more extreme weather events in the future. The hot summer of 2018 was so extraordinary that Global Climate Risk Index Germanwatch Germany’s development and environmental organization ranks third among the countries worst affected by such events that year – right after Japan and the Philippines.
A contradictory distance
However, the climate crisis seems to be too far for many people here in this country. As psychological research shows, a lack of communication ultimately contributes to this paradoxical situation. The way politicians, experts and journalists currently talk about the climate crisis, they still don’t capture that many people. Despite all the information available about the dangerous impacts it will have, they do not see climate change as an urgent problem and prefer to dedicate themselves to other issues instead. Behind that are psychological mechanisms that prevent us from doing what would be rationally necessary. The good news: With the help of scientific knowledge, one can learn to talk about the impacts of climate change in a way that can lead to rethinking.
Perhaps during personal conversations about the climate crisis, you have already come across people with whom it is difficult to have such a conversation. I have a boyfriend, let’s call him Thomas. He is in his mid-40s, has a father and two-child teacher, sings in the church choir of his community, is a passionate gardener and enjoys taking day trips by car. He is an open person and believes that protecting the climate is a fundamental right. But he believes that the climate movement is exaggerated and that previous political measures will solve the problem.
Jacob Traub of New York University and Nera Lieberman of Tel Aviv University make this clear The “hermeneutic level theory”When people experience a topic as being too emotionally distant and therefore less interested in it. This is called psychological distance. This has four dimensions: spatial distance (relevant only to people elsewhere), temporal (relevant only in the future) and social distance (affecting people who are different from themselves) as well as feeling insecure. According to a survey by psychologists from the University of Nottingham and the University of Cardiff, people in Great Britain, for example, are experiencing the climate crisis in faraway places in all four dimensions.
The fact that the incidence and extent of climate change is seen to be uncertain is also related to academic language. A team led by David Bodescu explained in 2009: Ordinary people understand the probability data contained in the IPCC Reports very differentlyThan the researchers intend. For the latter, scientific uncertainty is normal; It is a good idea to list what was not taken into account in the investigation and it is doubtful. In everyday life, the term insecurity has a different meaning. This can give the impression that the results cannot be trusted. A linguistic analysis in 2015 revealed that the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are more ambiguous than other specialist publications. In doing so, they claim to be friendly to the public and relevant to politics, but they are not obligatory. Communication must become more understandable and thus requires Psychologists from Heidelberg University on Dorothy Amelong. This is why it is important to reduce the amount of information to a level that can be consciously managed while at the same time ensuring that everything essential is included.
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