#13 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets
For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
Below is a post recapping  my prior 12 Reasons Why I’m Lukewarm to Climate Change

Let’s move on …

Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets

It’s oft-noted that most climate change celebrities dart around in private jets and gas guzzling SUVs … … and Al Gore’s mega-mansion(s) consume more energy than most suburban neighborhoods.


Guess what:  climate change hypocrisy is prevalent … and there’s a scientific reason why “believers’ don’t walk the talk.


The Pacific Standard channeled a study that was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Researchers grouped more than 400 Americans into 3 climate change categories: “skeptical,” “cautiously worried,” and “highly concerned” – and followed them around for a full year.

Their conclusion: “Belief in climate change does not appear to be a necessary or sufficient condition for pro-environmental behavior.”

More specifically: Those who expressed the greatest belief in, and concern about, the warming environment “were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions.”

Conversely, those who doubted the scientific consensus on the issue “opposed policy solutions,” but at the same time, they “were most likely to report engaging in individual-level, pro-environmental behaviors,”

For example: “Skeptics” used public transportation, bought eco-friendly products, and used reusable bags more often than those who claim to be “cautiously worried,” or “highly concerned.”

Hmmm … how can that be?

There’s a cognitive bias at work here.

It’s called “moral licensing”.

People tend to think that if they do something good then they accumulate credits that “license” them to do do something bad.

For example, wash down that pizza with Diet Coke; drive to Whole Foods in gas-guzzling SUV; forget to turn off your energy-efficient light bulbs.

Well, it appears that climate change zealots have been granted moral licenses.

They do so much good: preaching the climate change gospel to doting crowds of believers, condemning the presumed bad behavior of evil deniers, and pushing for draconian laws that will force the unwashed to do the right thing.

They build up a huge surplus of moral credits which they can use to offset their negligence or bad behavior … without any pangs of conscience.


So what?

Paraphrasing the study’s authors:

For climate change skeptics: remember that conservatism prizes individual action over collective efforts.

So while you may assert disbelief in order to stave off potentially coercive actions by the government, you can take pride in doing what they can do on a personal basis.


For climate change zealots: The results suggest that “changing skeptical Americans’ minds need not be a your top priority.”

If your goal is inspiring individual action, a urgent and productive task is to focus on people who already grasp the problem … and get them to align their actions with their concern.

As “believers” like to say … this one is now “settled science”.

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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