Human acceptance a key in the climate issue

Charlie Taylor

Published: April 10, 2022, 22:06Per Espen Stoknes is a psychologist at the Institute of Climate Psychology in Norway. Photo: Sol Kaolo and iStock. Most people accept fossil-free energy as a global and necessary solution to climate problems. But when the transition creeps close and has consequences for ourselves, we are often more hesitant. This is a major climate challenge that is often forgotten in the debate and here the energy companies have an important role.Read more about what Per Espen Stoknes and Knut Ivar Karevold write about the psychology of climate denial in “The Edit” – an appendix to Vattenfall’s annual and sustainability report 2021. That is the opinion of Per Espen Stoknes and Knut Ivar Karevold, psychologists at the Institute of Climate Psychology in Norway. Together, they write in The Edit – an appendix to Vattenfall’s annual and sustainability report 2021. In The Edit, Vattenfall has invited several experts who give their perspectives on the climate issue and a sustainable tomorrow. – People are generally easier to accept solutions that are far from ” their own backyard ”and they reject solutions that involve local consequences. But it is not acceptable that we continue to destroy our nature. Therefore, we must understand what acceptance is about, so that we can navigate the great change we have ahead of us, says Per Espen Stoknes. – Acceptance has many components: thoughts, feelings, needs and actions. People fear, deny and repress what feels negative and reject and resist what they find unacceptable. The structure of the climate problem also makes it harder to accept; it is invisible, abstract, complex and threatening. Word choice such as doom and disaster in climate communication also makes acceptance even more difficult. – We block or adjust information that threatens our emotional balance. But self-defense denial only provides short-term mental peace and prevents long-term adjustment, says Per Espen Stoknes.

Energy companies can balance

When people do not know what to believe, they are also influenced by others. – Then they seek like-minded people. This means that both climate acceptance and climate rejection are socially transferable. Man’s need for identity and connection can be strong, says Knut Ivar Karevold.“When the arguments are too harsh, it will increase resistance,” says psychologist Knut Ivar Karevold. Photo: Sol Kaolo We also like to form groups to handle challenges. The group is often closely joined and is governed by common beliefs, a sense of morality and social superiority. There, what is similar is accepted and what is different is rejected. This makes it more difficult to create acceptance for climate solutions. – Therefore, dialogue between groups is very important. This means that energy suppliers must be able to balance conflicting interests – and create new green solutions that are both environmentally and people-friendly, says Knut Ivar Karevold. – When people feel open to new climate solutions, communication becomes easier. But when the arguments are too harsh, it will increase resistance. This means that strongly convinced climate communicators sometimes undermine their messages by criticizing those who are not yet convinced.

Acceptance important for sustainable companies

In other words, effective climate communication requires that both sides accept each other’s differences in interests and needs. – It can be difficult to accept people who delay or undermine climate measures. But social distancing only makes it harder to make progress around our common climate problems. To move forward together, we must instead show acceptance for each other, says Per Espen Stoknes. That understanding is central to sustainable companies. – Most organizations are still driven mainly by financial sustainability, not environmental and social sustainability. But with a balanced focus on people and the planet as well as profitability, we can create greater acceptance for new solutions from the energy sector.Read more about what Per Espen Stoknes and Knut Ivar Karevold write about the psychology of climate denial in “The Edit” – an appendix to Vattenfall’s annual and sustainability report 2021. The article is produced by Brand Studio in collaboration with Vattenfall and not an article by Dagens industri

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