Who Knew? I always assumed that my skepticism about climate change was due to the studies I read which talked about things such as ocean currents, sun spots, typical patterns as the Earth approaches another Ice Age amongst many, many others.  But today the NY Times showed me the error of my ways. You see the real reason I am skeptical about global warming is the fact that I am a conservative white male with deep seeded repressed feelings.

McCright’s study, “Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States,” was published online in July and printed in the October 2011 issue of Global Environmental Change, which ranks first out of 77 journals on environmental studies.

See there is a bright side, it has been a very long time since I was called a “cool dude.”

But from McCright’s perspective it was important to find out to what extent the sharp debate over climate change at the elite level had trickled down into the general public in recent decades. “Within the ranks of elites, climate change denialists are overwhelmingly conservative white males,” reads the report, pointing to figures like talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Marshall Institute CEO, William O’Keefe. “Does a similar pattern exist in the American public?”

McCright and Dunlap’s analysis used polling data on climate change denial from 10 Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 72.4 percent of the American population reported as white in 2010, and 77.1 percent in the year 2000. This majority made it difficult to draw conclusions about the relationship between other races and climate change, said McCright, because the Gallup survey sample size was so small.

Holy Cow, ten years of data? Heck not only have attitudes regarding climate change significantly changed since 2001, it wasn’t even called that back then, it was called global warming.  Since then the “Al Gore types” changed the name because the Earth was getting colder instead of warming.

To test for the trend amongst conservative white males, the researchers compared the demographic to “all other adults.” Results showed, for instance, that 29.6 percent of conservative white males believe the effects of global warming will never happen, versus 7.4 percent of other adults. In holding for “confident” conservative white males, the study showed 48.4 percent believe global warming won’t happen, versus 8.6 percent of other adults.

My disagreement with their methodology is not as important to the Times story as the reason conservative white guys like me are climate skeptics.

  • We are “the man.” The white male effect could stem from the notion that, historically, white males have faced fewer obstacles in life, said McCright. But another school of thought sees the adoption of risk tied to personal values. “It has to do with their identity as an in-group,” he said. “Something that would challenge the status quo is something [conservative white males] want to shun.”
  • We Don’t deal well with change. According to the literature on “identity protective cognition,” people believe messages coming from the people they identify with most and ignore messages that are contrarian, Dunlap said. While all groups have a tendency to do this, he said, in the case the climate change, conservative white males are especially likely to exhibit this self-protecting characteristic. 
  • Everybody does it.  In the Yale Law School “Second National Risk & Culture Study” researchers found that despite expert opinions espousing the relative safety of certain forms of nuclear energy, progressives are still concerned about it. Values shape factual beliefs across an array of phenomenon, he said. “If it’s conservative white males on global warming, pick a different issue and you’ll find another group that has trouble thinking in a way that agrees with experts.”
  • Conservative media mind control.  In 2000, climate change beliefs held predominantly by conservative white elites started to spread. “Conservative think tanks, conservative media, corporations, and industry associations (especially for the fossil fuels industry) — domains dominated by conservative white males — have spearheaded the attacks on climate science and policy from the late 1980s to the present,” McCright and Dunlap concluded in their study. “The results presented here show that conservative white males in the general public have become a very receptive audience for these efforts.”

Here’s the information the study doesn’t discuss, the flip side.  Who are the climate change believers?  Why liberal white males. The authors are just making an assumption as to who is right and who (if any) has deep psychological reasons why they believe what they believe. 

This study reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live routines, a discussion between Sigmund Freud (Dan Aykroyd) and Anna Freud (Laraine Newman)

Sigmund Freud: Hello, Anna. How did you sleep, Liebchen?

Anna Freud: Oh, I slept very well, Papa. You know, I had the strangest dream, though. I dreamt about a man who looked just like you.

Sigmund Freud: [sipping tea] Mm hm.

Anna Freud: He had a beard just like yours. And he was old enough to be my father.

Sigmund Freud: Ya.

Anna Freud: I couldn’t figure it out. And then, he was sitting on your bed, Papa.

Sigmund Freud: Uh huh.

Anna Freud: Along with all my male cousins. And they were all bound and gagged except for one arm. And everybody was bare naked.

Sigmund Freud: [gets increasingly “turned on” as she proceeds] Mm hm.

Anna Freud: And they had bowls of fruit in their laps, you know?

Sigmund Freud: Mm hm.

Anna Freud: And everybody kept offering me a banana. I was not hungry for a banana, though, you know? Except when the man with the beard offered me the biggest and ripest banana. [Sigmund shifts uncomfortably and sets down his tea cup] Oooh, Papa, that was the only banana I ate. Oooh, and then the bed turned into a train, Papa.

Sigmund Freud: Ya?

Anna Freud: And it went through a tunnel. And we came out of the tunnel [Sigmund holds up his trembling hand as if he is about to grab Anna’s torso] and then I fell and I fell and I fell and the man with the beard fell and fell and fell. [abruptly] And then we both smoked a cigarette. [Sigmund lowers his hand and cools off considerably] Papa, what did that dream mean?

Sigmund Freud: It doesn’t mean anything, Anna. It’s only a dream. Sometimes a banana is just a banana. Anna?

Anna Freud: Yes, Papa?

Sigmund Freud: Please don’t mention this to Mama.

Anna Freud: [toys with his necktie] Oh, I won’t. [They give each other a hug.]

 The global warming hoaxers are desperately trying to explain why the free-thinking public are beginning to doubt their story, their latest gambit is we must be crazy a strategy which is doomed to fail.  After all you don’t need to be a psychologist to know sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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