Call Us: 201.303.0534

Mail Us: info@wellwellusa.com

Call Us: 201.303.0534

Email Us: info@wellwellusa.com

Climate Deniers’ Conflicting Motivations

There Is Good News & Bad News

Climate Deniers’ Conflicting Motivations

By John Salak –

While more Americans than ever believe climate change is due to the growing scientific support for the notion, the topic remains a furious debate point between those who believe it and the balance who don’t. 

Yale University recently underscored the rising belief in climate change by releasing a survey that showed 72 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, which is an increase from 60 percent in 2010. In comparison, 16 percent rejected the idea and 12 percent didn’t have an opinion.

Many find it hard to accept that climate change deniers exist given what is seen as the scientific evidence in support of global warming. Researchers at the University of Bonn, however, recently took a different take on the issue by trying to identify what motivates climate deniers. It was traditionally assumed that deniers didn’t want to change their behavior and instead bent the facts so they could deny global warming. 

The university’s online experiment involving 4,000 U.S. adults, ultimately, found no evidence of fact-bending, results that surprised the study’s authors. 

The researchers noted that one hypothesis on why climate deniers held “misconceptions” is that they embraced a form of self-deception that allowed them to more easily live with their own climate failings if they do not believe that things will actually get all that bad. 

“We call this thought process ‘motivated reasoning,'” reported Professor Florian Zimmermann, an economist at the German university.

Motivated reasoning helps people justify their behavior, he explained. It helps people bend the facts until it allows them to maintain a positive image of themselves while maintaining their harmful behavior.

While there was little scientific evidence to support the notion climate deniers were engaged in motivated reasoning, it seemed a logical supposition for many, The Bonn team’s research upended this assumption. 

The study involved 4,000 adults from the U.S. who were split into two groups. They were all told they could give a $20 donation to one of two groups that were both battling climate change. 

Members of the first group were able to split the $20 between two organizations, while those in the second group could decide to keep the $20 for themselves instead of giving it away.  

“Anyone keeping hold of the donation needs to justify it to themselves,” Zimmermann added. “One way to do that is to deny the existence of climate change.” 

Ultimately, nearly half of those in the second group decided to hold on to the money. What was surprising, however, is that those keeping the $20 didn’t justify their actions through self-deception. 

“Yet we didn’t see any sign of that effect,” Zimmermann revealed. “In other words, our study didn’t give us any indications that the widespread misconceptions regarding climate change are due to this kind of self-deception.”

The results are good news and bad news for policymakers battling climate change and those looking to convince skeptics that global warming is real. 

Zimmermann reports that results could mean that it is possible to correct climate change misconceptions by simply providing comprehensive information. Of course, he added that if people are bending reality to suit their own needs, there is not much room to change these people. 

The data also indicated another troubling pattern, Zimmermann warned. 

“Our data does reveal some indications of a variant of motivated reasoning, specifically that denying the existence of human-made global heating forms part of the political identity of certain groups of people,” he said. 





Newsletter Sign-Up

Social Media

Related Posts

Related Podcasts

WellWell delivers a big dose of health and wellness news, product information and discounts straight to you.

Subscribe to The WellWell Newsletter