Below are my notes on the resources I have explored. I’ll keep updating this page every few weeks to include more ideas!

1: Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, Kiehl, Columbia University Press, 2016

5 fundamental facts that prove humans are causing climate change:

  1. CO2 concentration increasing
    • Began during industrial revolution
  2. Fossil fuels are releasing the CO2
    • The lighter isotopes of carbon are being released
      • These are the isotopes found in fossil fuels
  3. CO2 gas traps a lot of heat – infrared
  4. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cause warming
    • Energy in the atmosphere has increased consistently for 50 years
  5. Increasing CO2 concentration significantly increases the temperature of the earth
    • If we continue at current levels, the year 2100 will see the highest temperatures since 40 million years ago!

Psychological Factors that Cause Inaction

  • Fear
    • Fear of change – adapting requires CHANGE in our lifestyles
    • Archetypes:
      • Senex = old person
        • Wise
        • Rigidity
          • Comfortable with set routine, wants predictability
      • inner young person = puer
        • Loves excitement
        • Doesn’t want commitment
      • Security seekers
        • Afraid of change
        • SELF protection
      • Harmony seekers
        • Like change if helps society
        • harmony with WORLD
      • Utilitarian view: nature is there to supply humans
      • Intrinsic view: nature has value regardless of human presence
    • People afraid of climate change action: senex, security seekers, utilitarian
  • National philosophies
    • Individualism: US
      • Individual > society
    • Europe, Asia: collectivism
    • Collectivism = more climate change action bc regulation hurts individual but helps long term society
  • Helplessness
    • Emotional complex = prevents progress
    • Anticipatory loss = fear of losing in future
      • Financial loss = Losing money for fossil fuel companies
      • Loss of faith = ignoring climate change for religious reasons (only God can be in control)
      • Fear of individual autonomy
  • Types of defenses: denial, rationalization, compartmentalization, distortion, dissociation, projection
    • Denial: “I can’t believe it”
    • Rationalization: 
      • “We can’t do anything about it” 
      • “It’s caused by natural cycles”
    • Compartmentalize: keeping separate from other beliefs to avoid confrontation
    • Distortion: rose colored glasses
      • “It’s not that bad”
    • Projection: shift blame
      • Electric company says they’re providing for the customer
    • Dissociation: ignore the problem 

Interesting Ideas for solutions

  • Sense of security early on in childhood = more security in adulthood = less fear of change
  • Acceptance of who you are (no denial) = possibility of change
    • Self reflection
  • Willingness to accept change
    • Slow down
    • Talk to others
    • Absolve fear of being wrong
  • Being willing to experience feeling (sense of loss)
    • Find meaning
  • Sharing experiences with others = relief
  • Increasing self awareness of what you’re feeling
    • What does this remind me of?
    • Which emotional complexes am I experiencing?
  • Develop increased emotional connection with natural world
    • Importance of images
      • No image showing how humans cause climate change
    • Create stories that demonstrate how important nature is
      • Lord of the rings
      • Archetypal “hero” going on journey
  • Allowing self to imagine a different world

Climate Debate

  • Not science based, largely personal issues
    • Scientists arguing based on laws of nature, people argue based on emotional value
  • “Gut feelings”/intuition drive decisions

2: Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges, American Psychological Association, 2009

People’s response to risks?

  • People base decisions on personal experience
    • Underestimate effects of occurrences such as floods, hurricanes
  • See as an issue of the future, not now — while solving the problem will cost them now
  • See nature as “out of control” of humans

What drives ignorance and inaction?

  • Unaware
  • Don’t know what to do
  • Lack of trust in science
  • Believe they’re not personally responsible
  • Have other, more “important” things to do
  • Believe others or a non human solution will solve problem

How do humans affect the environment?

  • Population growth and its effects
    • Actions taken to account for this (increased food production and farmland, etc)

How to help psychologically?

  • Analyze behavior
    • Individual: ability (income/skill), motivation (connection to nature, understanding of what’s truly needed)
    • Contextual: limits to opportunity for action (infrastructure, environment in area), contextual motivation (societal norms, consumerism)

Psychological effects of climate change?

  • Tangible effects = Increased anxiety
  • Fear = worsening mental health
  • Decrease in resources = inter group tension
  • Possible motivation for change?

How do people respond psychologically?

  • Try to understand and make sense of whats going on
  • Blame game
  • Seek security

Recommended action for psychologists:

  1. Use the shared language and concepts of the climate research

community where possible and explain differences in use of language

between this community and psychology;

  1. Make connections to research and concepts from other social,

engineering, and natural science fields;

  1. Present psychological insights in terms of missing pieces in climate

change analyses;

  1. Present the contributions of psychology in relation to important

challenges to climate change and climate response;

  1. Prioritize issues and behaviors recognized as important climate

change causes, consequences, or responses. Be cognizant of the

possibility that psychological phenomena are context dependent;

  1. Be explicit about whether psychological principles and best practices

have been established in climate-relevant contexts;

  1. Be explicit about whether psychological principles and best practices

have been established in climate-relevant contexts; and

  1. Be mindful of social disparities and ethical and justice issues that

interface with climate change.

Policy recommendations:

3: Hidden Brain Podcasts

June 1 episode: Justifying The Means: What It Means To Treat All Suffering Equally

Philosopher Peter Singer’s morals:

  • Obligation to give to others, no matter where they are
    • “Person behind the curtain idea” – if you would save a person near you, you should have the same commitment to saving someone elsewhere
  • Sense of personal responsibility
    • Singer believes that it’s morally wrong not to give to others when you are able
      • Idea that if it’s morally wrong to walk by a drowning child and not save them, the same applies to children suffering from malaria in another country

Application to climate change: ability to empathize with others – recognizing that climate change is causing problems for others, even if you can’t feel the risks

  • Personal responsibility
  • obligation

June 8 episode: Playing Favorites: When Kindness Toward Some Means Callousness Toward Others

  • 2 moral compasses: emotional connection to suffering of those you love VS all people’s suffering counts for the same
    • Train moral dilemma: sacrifice 5 people or 1 person you love
      • Dylan Matthews: same philosophy as Singer ^^, would sacrifice 5
      • Hannah Groch-Begley: would sacrifice 5 people she didn’t know over someone she loves
  • People who feel an emotional connection – have been taught to care more about and protect the people they love
  • Saving someone from a burning building would be a defining moment in our lives, but we have the same power to save people monetarily every day
    • Can’t see it – optics, so it’s not as powerful

Application to climate change: 

  • People don’t have the motivation to care about things they can’t see
  • Emotional connection causes people to value the lives of those close to them over the lives of others affected by climate change
    • Can this be leveraged to influence change?

April 19, 2016 episode: Why Our Brains Weren’t Made To Deal With Climate Change

  • Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier: when people see the ice melting, they care much more — tangible effects
    • Visitors who come back after years notice that it has visibly receded
      • Usually abstract issue, but now it’s much more palpable
    • Some admit climate change is happening but don’t believe humans are causing it
      • Don’t think humans have power over earth

July 22, 2019 episode: Why Facts Aren’t Enough: The Psychology Of False Beliefs

  • Confirmation bias: tendency to only pay attention to info that confirms your previous beliefs
    • presenting facts doesn’t change people’s minds about climate change
  • Conforming bias: wanting to conform to others beliefs
    • This is why if many people in a town ignore climate change, others will as well
  • Presentation vs fact: people are more likely to believe someone who is kind to them, welcomes them in


  • Fear = primitive part of brain
    • Lack of action, more panic
  • Humans are cost averse — seek rewards but don’t avoid costs as intentionally
  • When there’s a clear enemy, it’s easier to fight
    • Cellphone tower example = everyone mobilized
    • Climate change = who are you “fighting” against?
  • No incentive to help others in the future if it doesn’t help you in the present
    • Mattress example – people driving around it on the highway
  • Tragedy of the commons: 
    • Religion – yearning to be part of something: tribe, movement, group
    • Need to focus on creating this welcoming social environment for people, not just throwing facts out

4: Interviews (on “Interviews” page)

5: Conversation with Global Warming Skeptic

Notes on Interview

    • He used to believe the science
  • Doesn’t think policy is exact solution
  • Argues using science
    • Data centers close to urban areas where heat radiates
  • Also argues using economic arguments – says economic incentive to support climate change
    • Often the argument is made on the other side
  • Nuance – says global warming exists but causation by humans isn’t clear
  • Mentions al gore movie and climate gate
  • Says people are believing LESS now than before
  • Mentions people not responding well to scare tactics
  • Does mention he wants change, but just more slow and over time
    • This makes me confused – if he still wants change over time, why is he arguing that the issue is “oversold”? Doesn’t that do the opposite of driving change?
    • Calls self “pragmatic skeptic”
      • He has solar power on his home and has reduced energy
      • It seems like he wants action but doesn’t like regulation?

My Thoughts on Psychology

  • Very calm – interviewer is a bit aggressive at times, yet he isn’t being defensive
  • He uses psychological evidence against climate change: noble cause corruption
  • He gives a lot of examples of why current initiatives to drive action might not be working?

6: Poll: Public Priorities: Environment vs. Economic Growth, Gallup, 2005

“According to Gallup’s March 2005 environment poll*:

→ slightly more than half of Americans (53%) say protecting the

environment should be given priority “even at the risk of curbing economic growth,”

→ a third (36%) prioritize economic growth “even if the environment suffers to some extent.” 

→ Eleven percent say both should be given equal priority or have no opinion.” 

  • Shows that contrary to our beliefs, people have been prioritizing the environment for a long time, even since 2005
  • However, this poll also shows that ratings fluctuate
    • When the economy is good, people prioritize environment
      • Environment always “second” issue — when something else isn’t more pressing/drastic, it gets attention
      • Never can share spotlight with other issues (ex: social justice, economy, etc > environment, not both given attention at once)
      • While this is excusable, at some point, it can’t continue if we want to truly change the environment for good

7: “The Perils of Explaining Climate Inaction in Terms of Psychological Barriers”, March 2020

  • Psychologists focus too much on individual attitudes and not broader social context
    • Perpetuates helplessness bc it seems like inaction is rooted in psychology and unchangeable
    • Treating social surroundings as “normal” and not incredibly relevant to attitudes towards climate change while often, they are the driving factors
  • Upper class has more power for activism
    • Psychologists often miss these influences bc they’re so ingrained in society
    • Fossil fuel barons = more power
    • institutions/government fails to act
      • But psychology focuses instead of the attitudes of individuals, not these institutions
  • Focusing on shifting individual attitudes within social structure instead of shifting social structure!
    • Instead, psychologists should study what societal conditions drive protest movements, etc
  • Focusing too much on psychological barriers & WITHIN brain = people think problem is unchangeable

8: Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall, 2014 

(summary by Jock Gilchrist)

Factors that drive denial

  • stress/disaster
    •  disastervictims: avoid talking about climate change in an effort to cope
      • Need hope for future in rebuilding – climate change instead paints a picture of future doom
  • Confirmation bias
    • Extreme weather = confirmation bias
      • If you believe climate change exists, you see it as proven effects
      • If you don’t believe in climate change, you see it as proof that weather is just naturally crazy
    • Climate deniers also use the same evidence against climate activists
  • Context
    • Hatred of the people who tell you about climate change
      • Ex: anti government, anti rich, etc
      • Solution: bring more “everyday citizens” out to talk about climate change
        • Also, people who switched from denier to advocate
    • Rhetoric: often talked about too much in an “environmental” lens
  • Social groups
    • Tribalism” vs science: data is ignored when it conflicts with our innate desires to be accepted by a group (ex: climate change deniers)
    • Bystander effect: would rather stay safe in social group and live with a lie than potentially have to play devil’s advocate
    • Us vs them mentality: abusing opponents (climate scientist stephen schneider)
    • Searching for enemies: both activists and deniers looking for scapegoat instead of coming together against climate change
    • Social silence: considered taboo to talk about
      • If nobody talks about it, people dont’ actively think about it
  • Comfort
    • Climate change doesn’t feel like a threat because the things causing it are regarded as a normal part of human life
      • Ex: poaching – a person robbing an animal of its tusks doesn’t seem like a normal, acceptable thing, while driving cars is something we all consider routine!
        • “…climate change does not feel frightening unless you actively choose to see it that way.”
  • “Future” problem
    • No gains, only losses in the present (must sacrifice)
    • Uncertainty
      • Used to justify inaction
      • Makes it difficult to tackle it with a problem solving mindset
    • “When a frog is placed into warm water that slowly rises to a boil, and the frog boils alive. When a frog is tossed into boiling water, it is shocked enough to hop out alive. Climate change is like the first scenario.”
    • 2050 seems very far off
      • This is probably why teens/kids care more, bc 2050 is going to be a part of their lifetimes
  • Emotion
    • Amygdala = emotional part of the brain
      • Climate deniers: use amygdala first, then move to rational part of brain (using data to justify emotions) instead of the other way around
        • However, they believe they have begun with the rational part, which makes beliefs seem scientifically grounded
    • Emotional numbing (tired of being worried)
    • People prefer stories (more engaging, link facts with emotion) over facts
  • Lack of responsibility
    • Would rather deny something exists than have to take action
    • Also, people who want to see the world as “fair” are upset that they have to pay the price for something they didn’t do
  • “Selling” it correctly: “Republicans were five times more willing to pay a 2% climate change surcharge on an airline ticket when it was described as a ‘carbon offset’ than when it was called a ‘carbon tax.’”
    • Words like “clean energy” bring positivity to all people
  • Science is not convincing
    • Personal stories are more compelling\

Stories of Attitudes towards Climate Change

Naifah Uzlah, Indonesia

  • Comparison to other concepts (physics class)
  • Presence in poetry/art
  • Hope – something many lack in the face of climate change

Minh Nguyen, Singapore

  • Culture of not protesting – very different from US
    • Associate with instability (ex hong kong)
  • Not enough climate activists were willing to be helpful/aware
    • Many times, people don’t realize that they’re not giving others the access to resources they need
  • 1 person inspired others
    • Often, climate change is seen as an issue where a single person cannot make a difference
  • Focus on FUTURE
    • Human caring for people in the future
    • “That when I was sixty years old and watching the news about the latest wildfire, flood or typhoon, a child would ask me what climate change is. And then they’d ask me why no one did anything. I couldn’t look them in the eye and tell them, as adults tell me now, that we couldn’t. I’d know what a lie that is. So I did what I could, even if I didn’t know what that was.”
    • Acknowledges uncertainty: “There will be a lot of uncertainty. But if you care, it’s certainly worth trying.”

Anna Siegel, USA

  • Highlights how crises like pandemic can lead to increased awareness for environment
    • Caring about future because of pandemic = caring about future beyond that = environmental awareness
  • Even just hearing about something briefly from a friend can spark awareness
  • Also shows how political and environmental beliefs are often shaped by parents and community

9: Discussion between activists and Skeptics

List of People


  • Don: Professor of geology, climate scientist, author
  • Andrew: studied enviro science, consultant that specializes in eco tourism
  • Natalie: local govt consultant


  • Michael: vP of nonprofit about threats to western civilization
  • James: physicist/epidemiologist, focuses on academic integrity
  • Keith: constitutional rights activists
    • Concerned about future of next generations


  • Andrew looks verys surprised when he hears that james is a scientists
  • Believe global warming is NUMBER ONE concern
    • Don’t prioritize other things over climate change
    • Sees climate change as relating to EVERY issue
      • Mentions that homelessness, etc will get worse bc of climate change
      • Relates to public health
  • Look at big picture
    • Andrew (activist) – also has connections
      • Talks about less soil erosion on his farm
      • Talks about long term and big picture
    • Natalie: talks about regulation happening bc of long term trends
    • Michael: brings up PAST
    • Altruistic – focus on choices
  • Talks about control
    • Natalie: You can control your costs
  • Don: has grandkids, cares about future generations
  • Andrew = hopeful
    • Natalie = NOT IN FEAR!
  • Natalie – mentions responsiblity


  • Keith immediately starts out saying he’s concerned about future of next generations – wouldn’t this lead him to be an activist?
    • Always stressed RIGHTS
      • Worried about future of RIGHTS of kids
      • Michael worries kids are gonna live in a socialist country
  • US centric view: says action puts US at econ disadvantage if china & others don’t follow
    • Keith – doesn’t like that US blamed by everyone
    • Says political agenda infringement on rights
  • Michael – doesn’t believe humans have caused
    • Willing to trust only 1000 scientists who agree with her (and a few she knows) over the 99% that don mentions
      • What makes the scientists she’s talked to more correct than every other scientist?
        • Confirmation bias!!!!
  • Personal connections to being harmed by regulation
    • Don – knows a trucker
    • Keith – homeowners not allowed to water laws
    • Andrew (activist) – also has connections
      • Talks about less soil erosion on his farm
      • Talks about long term and big picture
  • Focus on economy
    • James – talks about manufacturing jobs in china being taken bc of regulation
    • Stress that living eco-friendly expensive
      • Michael mentions high gas prices – how is this eco friendly solutions being expensive
  • Individualism
    • US should focus on self
    • Taking from me and giving to others
    • Doesn’t like anyone CHOOSING for them – want freedom & constitutional rights
    • More opposed to the idea of climate action than to the idea of climate change being real
      • So it’s not as much that they don’t think climate change is a problem, it’s that they don’t want the regulation that comes with action
  • James: likes idea of energy saving and recycling but NOT bc of climate change
    • Likes it bc economy


  • Worry about future: activists focused on environment, skeptics focused on rights of future generations
  • Framing – how you look at things makes a big difference
    • Ex: choice
      • Skeptics believe others are taking their control, activists focus on the choices YOU HAVE to stop climate change
    • Funny youtube comment: “”But what about China?” Ah yes. I often teach my kids “Don’t do drugs. Unless the other kids are doing drugs, in which case there’s really no point in not doing drugs.”
      • When you think frame it like this & compare to something else, it seems much more ridiculous
  • “Socialism” = buzz word
    • Immediately incites fear

Skeptics talk about how it affects themselves vs activists talking about how it affects world

Themes I’m seeing overall:

  • Optics: don’t care about what you can’t see
  • Emotional and personal connections
  • Personal responsibility
  • Individual vs society