A Parallel Phenomenon: Climate Change and COVID-19 Denial
When talking about wicked problems, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are indeed the two topics that come up in your mind. Both issues can have a significant impact on humanity. The father of environmental justice, Robert Bullard, states that this pandemic acted “like a heat-seeking missile, homing in on the same communities most vulnerable to the effects of a warming world.”
Climate change is one of the biggest global challenges of the century. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are a significant factor in this environmental issue. These emissions have generated a substantial amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, just like heat-trapping gases in a greenhouse’s glass roof. As a result, the global temperature has increased, making our planet warmer, leading to the Arctic sea ice melting, rising sea level, etc.
Most people are concerned about climate change. Nevertheless, everybody sees the world differently. There are always deniers on any topics; Some people are more than just diehard non-believers, and these people are called “climate change denialists.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 also presents itself as a serious threat and appears to be more measurable in terms of easier-to-understand data on cases and deaths. This may make it harder for some people to ignore; however, this assumption was proven wrong. The study shows that approximately 12 percent of Americans are completely indifferent about coronavirus. With the recent outbreaks, the denialism appears to be similar to ones in response to the science of human-caused climate change. Some people are more likely to think that it is quite suspicious of such public health measures as social distancing.
This is where the concept of “parallel phenomenon” comes in. Climate change deniers refuse to take action in helping to safeguard our environment since they do not believe climate change will harm us or is a human-caused issue. Similarly, COVID-19 deniers who do not believe in wearing masks increase the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus and possibly contribute to increased transmissions of the virus.
How does denial operate?
John Cook, a research assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, states that the psychological distance between the cause and effect of climate change makes this issue more challenging to convince the deniers. According to the psychology of denial, these people tend to deny the truth that may bring forth negative feelings. For example, some people may feel uncomfortable knowing that human activities can damage our natural environment. When you think about flooding, droughts, or storms, these natural disasters can increase our negative feelings and bring up many painful emotions; hence, avoiding those thoughts would be an option.
What can believers do?
Understanding the root cause that allows for climate deniers not to comprehend the severity of the situation will enable us to communicate our concerns with others who may not share them and contribute our efforts to gradually alter their behaviours and attitudes based on denial. The parallels between the two groups, climate and COVID deniers, are prominent. Being confronted with logic and data appears to have a slight effect. Remember that the defence mechanism occurs to protect against painful emotion; therefore, messaging needs to be conveyed in an emotionally vivid way.
Be positive! Focus on benefits!
We can all contribute to saving our planet. No action is too big or too small; focusing on how we can be of use will benefit everyone. It is vital to offer the alternative of braving short-term pain and emotional distress for a long-term gain to encourage action on climate change. Shared value is key to fostering action. Instead of focusing on the negative impacts of global warming, we should focus on the benefits we will gain if we help slow global warming. Indeed, everyone would feel good and be proud of themselves when contributing to positive changes. As Ms Xie said in the journal of Environmental Psychology “Making behavioural change at an individual level is important, but it’s just as important for the people and institutions at the top to inspire and implement change for the good of our planet and future generations.”