Does A Lack Of Scientific Understanding Lead To Climate Apathy?

understanding climate science

Have you ever sat in a science class simply wishing you were somewhere else because what the teacher was saying just didn’t make sense to you? Yes? Good, I was hoping you’d say that because I was certainly in that position on a number of occasions throughout my time at school.

Even today, as a person who has a keen interest in climate science, I struggle to get my head around some of the more complex matters and while I try my hardest to get to grips with the arguments and facts, many people would just ignore the matter at hand. And let’s face it, if you don’t fully understand an issue, you can’t make a sound conclusion and you are more likely to fall into a state of apathy.

Could this be a primary cause of inaction among regular people?

Looking To A Trusted Source

One way that people make decisions about things they don’t fully understand is to consult an expert source that they can trust. Think about Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com fame – he is known and trusted for giving mostly impartial personal finance advice – or Professor Brian Cox and his ability to explain physics in ways that are accessible.

The problem with the subject of climate change is the two diametrically opposed viewpoints which, I’m sure, both seem fairly legitimate to the average person. This lack of clarity makes it difficult to take action because doubts spring up as to what is right and what is wrong.

The truth is: the average Joe doesn’t want to spend time and effort doing something unless they are sure it makes a difference. I don’t blame them.

So where do we find a trusted source? Can the government be trusted to lay out the facts in an impartial and constructive manner or should an independent body be setup to bring us the relevant arguments and peer reviewed data in a concise and easy to understand way?

Press Coverage & Misrepresentation

I have talked before about my dislike for misleading press headlines and when it comes to climate science this is no different. Now I’m not saying that either side is innocent because I’ve seen Guardian headlines that I find equally as biased as those from the Telegraph and Mail.

I’ve even watched as ITV news (impartial?) spoke about renewable energy subsidies pushing up people’s bills – without mentioning the subsidies for nuclear, gas and coal. They even went so far as to ask some people on the street what they thought about this – the inevitable answer came that they were disgusted. In 1 minute of news they had probably driven thousands more to the “anti” camp when it comes to renewable energy. Congrats ITV.

BBC News where art thou? Your environment section is rubbish – if you were a pupil in school I’d be telling your parents that you must do better!

All Hail TV?

As much as I just belittled the environmental news section of the BBC website, as a corporation they do provide some great, down to earth coverage of science.

I am a huge fan of Horizon and just the other day I saw one about Global Weirding – the science behind increasing extreme weather events. Concepts were, I thought, explained really clearly and the Beeb manage exactly the same thing with shows such as Bang Goes The Theory and, to a degree, Countryfile.

However, as good as these programmes are, most people do not watch them and many of those that do simply enjoy the shows without absorbing the overall messages being discussed.

Back To School?

There has been a long decline in the number of pupils taking science based subjects beyond GCSEs and this general lack of enthusiasm for the sciences is partly born out of a system of education that teaches people for tests and exams rather than inspiring a real desire to learn through experiments and field trips – teachers seem to agree with me.

Climate change has recently been dropped from the geography syllabus for under 14s and while teachers will still have freedom to bring it up, there is no expectation for them to do so. This worries me somewhat because if we don’t engage young people, will they also grow up ignorant of even the most fundamental facts?

Regardless of how school pupils and students are performing, the general population cannot go back to school so how exactly do we teach people a basic understanding of climate change and its effects?

One way in which the government might tackle the issue is with TV advertising. They have done it with road safety, they still do it with healthy eating messages and I see no reason why they could not do it with climate change – IF the naysayers can be silenced on the front and back benches of parliament.

Showing people easy ways to cut their emissions and genuinely educating them as to the reasons why they should do this wouldn’t cost the Earth in terms of money but it might go a little way to help saving it in terms of climate change.

What Do You Think?

Have I got it right here or am I just spouting views which don’t reflect the true reality?

I’d love to hear from both sides of the spectrum – if you consider yourself to be an eco conscious person, do you have a good grip on the science and, if not, what then inspired you to go green?

If, on the other hand, you feel you have a good understanding of the science but still don’t consider yourself to live a sustainable lifestyle, what causes you not to?

Leave your comments below.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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