As a climate scientist, I have become fascinated with climate skeptics. What makes them tick? Do they believe what they’re saying? A while back, I suggested cognitive dissonance may play a role.

Public Radio International has an interesting story on denial. Turns out that, much like a Neapolitan ice cream, it comes in several flavors:

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  • First is “strategic denial“: someone may know very well that X is true, but deny it because denial’ss in their best interest. Think ExxonMobil.
  • Second is “state of fear“: when you are afraid something could be true, you deny the possibility. The radio story referenced women who don’t check themselves for breast cancer — not because they’re not worried about it, but because they’re terrified what they might find.
  • Third is the “collapsing worldview“: If X is true, then you’re wrong about the world, and you’ll have to reassess how you see things. If climate change is correct, those who believe the free market solves all problems will have their worldview shattered. Easier to just deny!

Check out the story.

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