Article intéressant de Monbiot… notamment sur le profil des « sceptiques ». Ce qu’il ne mentionne pas, par contre, c’est peut être tout simplement une sorte de « fatigue » du public face au débat climatique. On ne peut pas se faire bombarder à longueur de journée par des messages catastrophistes du genre « c’est la fin du monde » (et Monbiot est un des principaux Philipulus en la matière) sans finir par prendre un peu de recul sur la chose. Mais c’est vrai que, aux Etats-unis, la population « sceptique » se compose avant tout de personnes vivant dans une bulle néo-conservatrice, ne lisant que les publications de son camp, n’écoutant que la radio de son camp… Allez faire un tour du côté des « right-wingers » et « tea-baggers » aux USA, vous serez effrayé à quel point c’est devenu une secte. Pour moi qui suis issu d’une vieille famille de Républicains conservateurs, l’idée que ces gens là représentent la majorité du Parti de mes parents et grand-parents, me fout les jetons. (Tim Carr)

[Georges Monbiot – Monbiot.com – 02/11/2009]

There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there’s solid evidence that the world has been warming over the past few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months(1). Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe that global warming is the result of natural causes (44%) now outnumber those who believe it is caused by human action (41%)(2).

A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that manmade global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled in 2008(3). The Science Museum’s Prove it! exhibition asks online readers to endorse or reject a statement that they’ve seen the evidence and want governments to take action. As of yesterday afternoon, 1006 people had endorsed it and 6110 had rejected it(4). On Amazon.co.uk, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1,2,4,5,7 and 8 in the global warming category(5). Never mind that they’ve been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles. What is going on?

It certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years. If you don’t believe me, open any recent edition of Science or Nature or any peer-reviewed journal specialising in atmospheric or environmental science. Go on, try it. The debate about global warming that’s raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.

(….)

Such beliefs seem to be strongly influenced by age. The Pew report found that people over 65 are much more likely than the rest of the population to deny that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, that it’s caused by humans or that it’s a serious problem(9). This chimes with my own experience. Almost all my fiercest arguments over climate change, both in print and in person, have been with people in their 60s or 70s. Why might this be?

There are some obvious answers: they won’t be around to see the results; they were brought up in a period of technological optimism; they feel entitled, having worked all their lives, to fly or cruise to wherever they wish. But there might also be a less intuitive reason, which shines a light into a fascinating corner of human psychology.

In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with “vital lies” or “the armour of character”(10). We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death. Over 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker’s thesis(11). When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their worldview, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it and increasing their striving for self-esteem(12).

One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death(13).

A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult for people to repress thoughts of death, and that they might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival(14). There is already experimental evidence suggesting that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption(15). Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.

If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven’t been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the past two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it?

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/11/02/death-denial/

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