Yale’s opportunity to break the cultural gridlock on climate

Science writer Elizabeth Kolbert (’83) writes “Rethinking How We Think About Climate Change” in a new report from the Audubon Society. One of the researchers Kolbert refers to is Dan Kahan, at Yale Law School. Another is Kari Norgaard, whose book Living in Denial observes people in a small town in Norway unable to speak openly about climate change, even though they believe it is happening.

Norgaard argues that it’s hard even for people who are privately worried about climate change to discuss the issue in public, because they feel guilty about the situation and, at the same time, helpless to change it. ‘We have a need to think of ourselves as good people,’ she says. The lack of discussion about the issue feeds itself: People believe that if it really were a serious problem, others would be dealing with it. ‘It’s difficult for people to feel that climate change is really happening, in part because we’re embedded in a world where no one else around us is talking about it,’ Norgaard says. ‘It becomes a vicious cycle between the political gridlock and the cultural and individual gridlock.’

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