The self-proclaimed climate change sceptics (a.k.a. contrarians, non-greenhouse theorists, etc.) are, in the greater scheme of things, really nothing more than a silly diversion. Spending too much time on them only results in a bruised head from excessive banging against recycled walls.
But as I’ve pointed out in a few recent posts, it is my firm belief that these climate cranks are not the real problem — not by a long shot. The biggest obstacle blocking meaningful action on climate change and securing a zero-carbon energy supply are those ‘well meaning’ people who on the one hand acknowledge the science of global warming and related problems of human impacts on Earth systems (often expressing their profound concern for the danger posed by worsening global change), yet on the other hand act in ways that indicate they understand or care nothing about its implications — or else they have constructed a form of self-delusion that ends up spawning the most damaging form of denial of all.
Whilst on my Xmas/New Year break, a family member showed me an interesting newspaper clipping that has further provoked my thinking about what causes this pervasive ‘denying while believing’ phenomenon. And the piece wasn’t about climate change — at least that was not its focus.
No, it was about the biggest news of 2008. As most of you would have already surmised, this was not global warming, environmental degradation or even the energy, water or food crises. Each of these got their fair share of attention, from time to time, but in the 2008 wash-up, all were swept away with the tide of media, political and societal interest (perhaps alarm or anxiety are better terms) surrounding the great global financial meltdown.
That’s what this newspaper article was about. It was called ‘Blame perversity for the meltdown‘, written by Fairfax columnist Leon Gettler (who has also written persuasively about global warming in other Op Eds). Please do read the original. But I think I can also illustrate nicely here how what Leon says about they psychology of managerial self-reward is equally applicable to our current bind in facing up to the climate crisis. The similarity of the two problems is, to me, quite striking. So let me paraphrase (with only a few key words/phrases changed, indicated in red, and some added hyperlinks):
THE market failure surrounding climate change has been blamed on greed, fraud and deceit; but the question is, why have they become so entrenched?
What’s been at play is the little-explored area of organisational perversity, collusion and turning a blind eye. In her book, The Perverse Organisation and Its Deadly Sins, RMIT academic Susan Long argues that organisations and corporations can create perverse systems, of which there are several forms.
First, there is the state of primary narcissism, where certain interests are pursued at the expense of the general good, and others are turned into objects to serve certain ends.