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Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis
Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis

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6 Doomism

Michael Mann, Professor of Atmospheric sciences at Penn State University in the USA, is a world-renowned climate scientist with a high media profile as a result of his preparedness to be a climate advocate. In 2019, as the denial of climate change was increasingly exposed, he came under personal attack for his so-called ‘doomism’. Doomism in this context does not just refer to those who are predicting that the world is doomed as a result of the climate threat; it is more specific. In this case, Michael Mann was accused of taking the view that it was too late to turn around runaway climate change and that therefore action was pointless. This was not Michael Mann’s position, rather that construction of his position was an attempt to discredit him. He was saying that action was urgent and that the world had ten years (and this was 2019) to make the necessary reductions in carbon emissions to avert the worst climate impacts.

It is an example of the way climate science is politicised. It was clear to Mann that the attacks were coming from fossil fuel lobbying groups. Since then, with climate change now indisputable, he points out that fossil fuel interests have changed their tactics (Mann, 2021).

Michael Mann rejected doomism as much as he criticised denialism. The accusation against him that set up one against the other is an example of how political culture and media trades in ‘either/or’ thinking (as if you can’t be critical of both doomism and denialism) in order to incite extreme views. This is relevant for Climate Psychology, which is trying to hold on to the reality while that is being distorted by such false binaries. It is pointing out that difficult truths are hard to face. In addition to binary positions operating at the level of individual minds, here we see the same principle operating at the level of political culture and involving huge organisational global groupings like climate science and fossil fuel corporate interests.