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Are you avoiding thinking about global warming?
You’re not alone. A recent survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication suggests about one in four Americans “try not to think about global warming”.
It’s one of the more notable findings of the programs ongoing survey about attitudes and actions about climate change among Americans. Climate Change in the American Mind has been surveying Americans on these questions for more than decade, letting us see shifts in opinion over time.
As someone who writes (& thinks!) about climate change all the time, I can still understand the Americans who answered this way. It’s rough stuff, even when you are focused on solutions, and being obsessed with something all the time can be just as dangerous as ignoring it entirely. Frankly, allowing myself to “turn off” my climate brain goes a long way in being a functional human who can work on this stuff full-time.
There’s lots of seemingly contradictory responses in the survey:
I don’t have a grand theory to account for all of this. Surveys on abstract concepts that involve identity and politics are always a bit weird.
But another question about feelings (yes, we talk about energy policy and feelings here at The Planet You Save) may get at a part of the answer.
Yale asked how strongly survey respondents responded with various emotions when thinking about global warming. The feelings that got the strongest response? Interested, frustrated, sad and hopeful.
If you’re interested but frustrated, that means you’re coming up against some sort of road block after becoming engaged. Also notable to me: the number of people who felt very hopeful was smaller than the people who felt very disgusted, another close runner-up in the strong feelings about climate change race.
We could say that about a lot of big, sticky problems in the world - it’s just that climate change affects all the other ones.
There’s lots more fascinating stuff in the survey (it’s extremely readable). But it might be even more interesting to ask people around you what they think of some of these questions — especially if they fall into the “never talking about it” category.
I’d also shout out this straight-forward piece from NPR about how to tell if a climate solution is actually any good. Share it with someone you know.