Why do some people deny facts that are plain to everyone else? Whether it’s about Covid-19, climate change or vaccines, some will defy the scientific consensus and cling defiantly to alternatives, even when they’re demonstrably wrong. Why? Dr David Hall has studied denial so you don’t have to. I spoke to him in two interviews, pre and post-lockdown, about the similarities between Covid and climate change denial and learned denial is not unusual nor a recent phenomenon: it was first noted in reactions to the atrocities of World War Two and is a normal human reaction to paradigm-changing facts.

It turns out, some things are too hot to handle, even for the grown-ups.

Note, we’re not talking about healthy scepticism, which is to be encouraged. Argument is good! Denial is a commitment to opposition that is defiantly irrational. So where does denial come from and how can it be addressed?

In a recent article in Wired, Gilad Edelman argues the pattern of denial of climate change is repeating at high speed in Covid: first denial of the science, then denial of the need to act, then complaint that the solution is too expensive. “It it looked as though this process were unfolding just as it had for climate change—but at 1,000x speed.”

I put that to David in the second interview done this week. Please note, the first part of the interview was done in our respective lounges during lockdown. My incompetence with tech means the quality of the recording is sub-optimal and leaves out my questions. It’s all about David anyways. Apologies.

About David:

David Hall a Lecturer at AUT, a contributor to business think-tank Pure Advantage and founder of sustainability consulting firm Mōhio and its newly launched Climate Innovation Lab. He has written numerous books and reports including the Climate Finance Landscape for the Ministry for the Environment, which formed much of its thinking behind its climate finance strategy and the recent BWB Text, A Careful Revolution: Towards a Low Emissions Future.

He is Co-chair for the Independent Advisory Group for Auckland Council’s Climate Action Plan, and a member of the Technical Working Group for Aotearoa Circle’s Sustainable Finance Forum. Just for fun he also engages in practical projects, such as conceptual design for the Trees That Count initiative, co-designing an innovative financial instrument – the Native Forest Bond Scheme – to establish continuous-cover-forest on erosion-prone land, and establishing native restoration sites – called AUT’s Living Laboratories – around Auckland to better understand the environmental impacts of native trees.

Climate change denialism is pretty much the subject of his PhD thesis gained at the University of Oxford.


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