Global warming and climate change are among the most discussed environmental issues in recent decades. Usually, these global changes in the environment are treated as consequences of human activity (McMichael, A.J., 2013). On the one hand, harmful human activity is evident. Greenhouse effect as a results of human-produced gases emission, increasing emission of CO2 to the atmosphere, the rise of average temperature, and global warming leading to the Arctic ice cap melting and causing the rise of sea levels are among the frequently used arguments proving the reality of global warming danger (“Is human activity primarily responsible for global climate change?” 2018).
However, every debate involves at least two parties. Thus, some people deny any dangers of climate change or consider it to be a hoax. They believe that changes in temperature are natural and have regularly been observed throughout human history and the rate of global warming reduced (“Is human activity primarily responsible for global climate change?” 2018). Both opinions result not only in discussions but also in research. The current paper presents the analysis of two articles dedicated to contrary views on the issue of global warming and climate change.
Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment
The impact of global warming on the environment is, probably, one of the major concerns in the climate change argument. Antarctic climate change becomes a burning problem. The research by Turner et al. (2013) presents updates of the Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (ACCE) report about the recent climate alterations and their impact on both the marine and terrestrial biota. Apart from the presentation of the Antarctic ecosystem, the report considers some human impacts such as “the release of greenhouse gases and chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere” (Turner et al., 2013, p. 240). The researchers focus on the vulnerability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which has been affected by the ozone hole.
The expected outcome is that unless greenhouse gas atmospheric concentration does not decrease, average temperatures on the continent will increase (Turner et al., 2013). Temperature increase would cause sea ice reduction by one third and the following sea-level growth.
The researchers present the history of Antarctica ice formation and its changes over the last million years in such aspects as atmospheric temperatures, snowfall, terrestrial and marine cryosphere, sea-level changes, etc. (Turner et al., 2013). Based on the historical processes, the authors provide implications for contemporary science regarding the likely changes in the Antarctic during the following century. Even though there are diverse climate models, it is difficult to assess the Antarctica climate due to its regional variability. Finally, the researchers conclude that “the climate of the high latitude areas is more variable than that of tropical or mid-latitude regions” (Turner et al., 2013, p. 253). It is one of the reasons why Antarctica is so vulnerable to global warming.
Denying Climate Change
The opponents of the global warming problem deny its existence and are skeptical about climate change. Both causes and effects of global warming are topics for debate. Dunlap (2013), who summarizes skeptical ideas about climate change, concludes that even though there are proofs of global warming provided by contemporary science and the evidence of human contribution to global warming, a significant part of the public is still not concerned about the problem. Many policymakers around the world and in the United States in particular “deny the necessity of taking steps to reduce carbon emissions” (Dunlap, 2013, p.691).
The author claims that skepticism about the issue of climate change and its denial was caused not only by the complexity of this case but also by “disinformation” campaigns organized to put in doubt uncertain scientific findings and “generate skepticism and denial” about the human role in global warming and climate change (Dunlap, 2013, p.692). Some industries, and fossil fuel producers, in particular, are interested in denying negative impacts on the environment. Frequently, scientific debate gains political background.
The researcher speaks of the role of the so-called conservative think tanks in the denial process that influences the issue of literature supporting climate change denial. Lahsen (as cited in Dunlap, 2013, p. 693) contributes to skepticism and denial of global warming issues using the findings of old research and having no contemporary proofs to justify denial. Another factor contributing to climate change denial is conservative media. Boykoff (as cited in Dunlap, 2013, p. 694) provides evidence of media participation in political debates supporting the denial of the climate change issue. The major idea expressed by those who deny global warming is that climate scientists exaggerate the degree of danger and possible threats to increase their status and attract more attention to their activity.
Ideas of Social Psychology as Related to Global Warming Issues
The issues of global warming and their representation are related to some concepts of social psychology. The most global concept that can be related to global warming and climate change is social influence. One of the aspects that perfectly suits the problem of people’s attitudes to global warming is persuasion. As a concept of social psychology, persuasion can be provided through education or propaganda (Myers & Twenge, 2018). When it gets to environmental problems, propaganda becomes a leading tool in persuading people. Moreover, it is applied by both supporters and deniers.
Nevertheless, these opposing parties take different routes to persuasion. The supporters of global warming and climate change significance mainly appeal to the argument as a central route to persuasion. Thus, the article by Turner et al. (2013) analyses then reports that include historical climate changes and results of previous researches to support the predictions of the environment. At the same time, the article by Dunlap (2013) leads to the conclusion that the people who deny global warming apply the peripheral route of persuasion which presupposes acceptance without thinking or evidence analysis.
Another concept of social psychology applicable to the case of global warming is social relations (Myers & Twenge, 2018). For the issues, global warming, and climate change, media including television and the internet are the most influential sources of information. Due to rapid technological development, information is spread very quickly and reaches a broad audience. Moreover, social psychologists believe that media can affect human behavior (Myers & Twenge, 2018). Consequently, the presence of environmental topics in the news can form society’s opinion.
The Power of Arguments
Usually, a discussion is won by a participant who provides better arguments. In the case of the global warming debate, the supporters of climate change significance seem to have more powerful arguments. However, the major aim of their arguments is not only to persuade but also to change attitudes.
According to Myers & Twenge (2018), attitudes can influence behavior. Consequently, in case the attitudes of the humanity towards environment on the whole and global warming in particular change, there is a chance that the changed behavior would reduce the negative impact of human activity. At the same time, the arguments provided by the party that denies the danger of global warming may have negative consequences. The beliefs of people that their activity does not have a significant harmful impact is likely to result in more actions dangerous for the future of the environment.
On the whole, the issues of global warming and climate change are among the most controversial in environmental disputes. There are two parties one of which claims that human activity is hazardous and hurts the future of the environment, while the second one denies any negative consequences of human activity. Both parties provide their arguments trying to persuade humanity. Still, environmental scientists present research results and proofs as their arguments.
At the same time, skeptics appeal to old research data or accuse climate researchers in exaggerating the real volume of the problem. Both parties use effective sources to spread their arguments including television and the Internet. However, their struggle for the audience leads to the loss of the route that can stimulate real change. Although both parties apply propaganda as a tool of persuasion, education can be a more effective one. Thus, environmental education based on real research data and proved theories can become a force that moves change in the issue of human effect on the environment on the whole and global warming in particular.
Dunlap, R. (2013). Climate change skepticism and denial. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(6), 691-698. Web.
Is human activity primarily responsible for global climate change? (2018). Web.
Myers, D., & Twenge, J. (2018). Exploring social psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Turner, J., Barrand, N., Bracegirdle, T., Convey, P., Hodgson, D., Jarvis, M. … Shanklin, J. (2013). Antarctic climate change and the environment: an update. Polar Record, 50(03), 237-259. Web.