APA: If You’re Not Green, See A Shrink

by Jack O'Connor on August 6, 2009

The American Psychological Association’s “Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change” published its report this week:

Many people are taking action in response to the risks of climate change, but many others are unaware of the problem, unsure of the facts or what to do, do not trust experts or believe their conclusions, think the problem is elsewhere, are fixed in their ways, believe that others should act, or believe that their actions will make no difference or are unimportant compared to those of others….Some or all of the structural barriers must be removed but this is not likely to be sufficient. Psychologists and other social scientists need to work on psychological barriers.

Translation: If you’re a green skeptic, the APA thinks you need a shrink.

The arrogance of this report is astounding. It presumes only one rational position in an incredibly complicated policy debate. CEI’s Marlo Lewis has a recent video discussing the science behind skepticism, but without even going into the details, let’s just recall the questions that have to come before action:

  1. What will be the extent and the effects of global warming?
  2. How much of that will be our fault?
  3. Of that portion, how much are we willing and able to abate?
  4. How much would that abatement cost?
  5. Is that cost lower than the additional damage the avoided warming would have caused?

Every one of those questions is open, and while the APA is certainly entitled to its answers, the idea that no one in his right mind could disagree is absurd and counterproductive.

The report makes a notable omission. More than a century and a half ago, Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds described humanity’s penchant for irrational crowd mentalities in movements like alchemy, the crusades, witch-hunts, and market bubbles. The same pattern has shown up again and again in popular panics: the nationalism of WWI, the crash of 1929, Nazism, Malthusian overpopulation scares in the 60’s, and fears of global cooling in the 70’s.

Might today’s green movement be more mania than reason? No, surely not.

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