Why Using Science Won’t Make People Greener

Many of us turn to science to explain the mounting problem of global warming to our peers. Alas, science might also play a role in convincing people not to become environmentalists. New research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology shows how giving too much of the science can backfire on the green movement.

In a series of experiments, researchers Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens found that test subjects who were exposed to news about scientific advancements related to climate change were less likely to participate in eco-friendly activities afterward. In each test, participants who read or heard something about the technological advancements being worked on to combat climate change subsequently reported via questionnaire that they were less inclined to engage in green behaviors than those who were not primed with news about global warming.

Shouldn’t people who are actively thinking about climate change be more inclined to take action, though? While the study’s findings may seem counterintuitive at face value, it actually makes sense that people who think that solutions to climate change are on the horizon are less inclined to pitch in and do anything about it themselves. After all, why bother recycling, conserving, or changing habits when some amazing scientific advancement will take care of that stuff for us? If someone is working on it, that means someone will fix it, too, so there’s no need to stress about carpooling.

It probably doesn’t help that the proposed scientific and technological solutions for tackling climate change are beyond the comprehension of the average citizen. Unable to completely understand how the potential solutions might work, they begin to look at global warming as a problem for someone else to work on, despite the fact that there are plenty of non-scientific contributions individuals can make to help alleviate our ongoing climate crisis.

Obviously, it is important for scientists to continue working on this problem, as their findings could be critical to our own survival. However, it looks like it might be more beneficial for scientists and media outlets to stop showcasing these ideas – particularly those that have not yet demonstrated they can be successfully implemented – so that people will remain under the impression that climate change is sill as perilous of an issue as ever and not something that is likely to be conquered in the near future.

The trick will be to find a balance: expose people to enough science to understand the scope of the problem without giving them the false expectation that science and technology can necessarily fix the problem, as well. With luck, perhaps scientific advancements will help us out of the predicament, but in the meantime, species on earth cannot afford to take that chance.

81 comments

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

We have too much of an easy-answer-seeking culture, which is why some people will rest at the supposedly "all-saving techno". Yes, the techno is helpful, but much more so is keeping an active, mindful stewardship attitude.

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa4 years ago

Thank you

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Alexandra G.
Alexandra G4 years ago

thanks for sharing

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Kristen belue
Kristen belue4 years ago

ty

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Yvette S.
Yvette S4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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John chapman
John chapman4 years ago

We have an abnormally large segment of our voters who not only deny climate change.

But science as well.

They believe God made the world in 6 days.

I guess they also expect him to take care of it forever.

No matter what we do to it.

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Ken Goldsmith
Ken Goldsmith4 years ago

Regus S, you have misread Dan B's post, he is on "your side". So Dan and I have not met, on any level, at any place. I have no "corporatist masters", either. I am generally opposed to "big business". In fact, some time ago, I was gullible enough to be a "Greenie", member of Greenpeace, all that crap. It was the slow realisation that the "science" of AGW did not fit the facts that caused me to question the whole looney left liberal scene. And very little of it stands up to any inspection.

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Regus S.
Regus Slantei4 years ago

Dan B. meet Ken G.

Ken G. meet Dan B.

Or have you two already met, when all you monkeys gathered so that your corporatist masters could interview and select the very best monkeys for the anti-science organ-grinder show?

You two are proof-positive that it isn't so much that 'stupidity' can't be fixed, its that your brand of 'stupidity' doesn't even WANT to be fixed.

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Donnaa D.
donnaa D4 years ago

ty

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees4 years ago

Money Ben. When we reveal all the hidden costs of not being green. People will choose to be green when it saves them money.

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