Why do we only allow a narrow sliver of psychological research to influence the discussion around climate change?

Renee Lertzman writes: With the climate talks in Paris at COP21 fast approaching, we’re seeing an unprecedented interest in what has been, for decades, a rather rogue yet burgeoning field: the psychology of climate change and environmental issues.

From Obama’s call to engage behavioral sciences to inform climate change engagement, to Bill Nye’s depiction of climate denial, it’s now become acceptable to acknowledge that climate change is, in fact, not only a scientific, political, economic, technical, and industrial issue, but also a deeply psychological one. To reckon with this “super-wicked problem” effectively, there is a growing awareness that we cannot ignore the underlying psychological dimensions that inform engagement, innovation, and political response.

There’s one question that appears to underlie virtually every report, book, and paper on the topic: Why are we not responding more actively and effectively to one of the greatest threats facing life on the planet today? Last week, a study was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science responding to this question, identifying “Five ‘Best Practice’ Insights From Psychological Sciences” for improving public engagement on climate change. The authors’ aim was to distill “five simple but important guidelines for improving public policy and decision making about climate change.” The paper reflects a growing movement to translate and bridge research findings with on-the-ground applications in policy, advocacy, and communities of practice. We need this kind of connection between research and practice, without question. However, we must ask: What about additional — and arguably critical — psychological insights that may be lost in translation? [Continue reading…]

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