Nick Cohen has a piece in the Guardian The climate change deniers have won. He is mourning the fact the "climate deniers" seem to be winning the day and exlpores why that might be. He writes:
... Clive Hamilton, the Australian author of Requiem for a Species, made the essential point a few years ago that climate change denial was no longer just a corporate lobbying campaign. The opponents of science would say what they said unbribed. The movement was in the grip of "cognitive dissonance", a condition first defined by Leon Festinger and his colleagues in the 1950s . They examined a cult that had attached itself to a Chicago housewife called Dorothy Martin. She convinced her followers to resign from their jobs and sell their possessions because a great flood was to engulf the earth on 21 December 1954. They would be the only survivors. Aliens in a flying saucer would swoop down and save the chosen few.
When 21 December came and went, and the Earth carried on as before, the group did not despair. Martin announced that the aliens had sent her a message saying that they had decided at the last minute not to flood the planet after all. Her followers believed her. They had given up so much for their faith that they would believe anything rather than admit their sacrifices had been pointless.
Climate change deniers are as committed. Their denial fits perfectly with their support for free market economics, opposition to state intervention and hatred of all those latte-slurping, quinoa-munching liberals, with their arrogant manners and dainty hybrid cars, who presume to tell honest men and women how to live. If they admitted they were wrong on climate change, they might have to admit that they were wrong on everything else and their whole political identity would unravel. ...
Let me say at the start that I think there is considerable truth in what he says. A great many of those who reject climate change alarm do not do so because they have a detailed knowledge of science. It is because it poses a significant threat to their view of the world.
Now let me add that is also true that a great many of those who embrace climate alarm do so not because they have a detailed knowledge of science. They do so because it gives them cognitive consonance. It reinforces their view of the world.
The marriage of climate alarm to anti-market, anti-growth, pro-state ideology is powerfully real but it is not a conscious marriage. It is intuitive. It creates cognitive harmony. To campaign for one is to campaign for the other.
If the real issue is solving the climate problem, then the messaging must be realistic. Take anti-growth. The global median annual income is about $1,000 per person. If there is to be no growth, then we have one of two options. First, freeze the world as it is and billions of people continue to live indefinitely at just above subsistence levels. Second, we install a global government to equalize income across the world meaning that the average American or European family (median income approx $50,000) will see a 98% drop to $1,000 a year. (And of course the very notion that income exists independent of the economic arrangements generating the income, which would have to be disassembled to achieve this goal, is absurd, but you get my point.) The first is immoral and the second beyond unrealistic. Therefore, the economy must grow and any realistic attempt to meet a climate change challenge will incorporate this. Period! End of discussion.
Innovation, adaptation, and substitution, and the free economies these activities need in order to thrive, are critical to addressing challenges, but they are anathema to so many climate advocates that embracing them creates cognitive dissonance. There are studies that suggest that when climate change is framed a little differently ... for instance, as a threat to future prosperity and freedom ... it gets a broader hearing among more conservative populations. Take the same-sex marriage movement. Regardless of what you think of its merits, a primary reason the movement has been successful is because it was able to tap into widely shared values of freedom of choice, tolerance, and equality. So it could just as easily be argued that it is the cognitive consonance of advocates that is blocking realistic meaningful responses to climate change.