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

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6 Technology

How technology is framed within our culture is another problematic aspect of how modern societies deal with climate change. The idea that technology is humankind’s crowning achievement is central to modernity; that it is what distinguishes us from other animals, that nothing is too difficult for technology to solve – including climate change. This has led to fractious debates as to whether it is wise or plausible to rely on still untested technologies such as carbon capture. Because technology is etched deeply into modern life, there is an infinite number of ways technology can help us. The problem is where it is grasped as a solution in such a way that it disavows the actual threat. For example, in a 2023 policy paper discussed in The Guardian (Harvey and Ambrose, 2023), the British government – challenged on the poor progress towards its net zero promises – relied heavily on carbon capture technologies that scientists said were unrealisable in the timescale required.

It is hard to unpick the truth from warring claims about what actions will suffice to avert climate disaster. The psychology involved helps us to understand how defence mechanisms, such as wishful thinking, doubt or distancing, can serve to steer us away from facing difficult truths. This could be an example of wishful thinking (from the earlier list of defences), perhaps also having the soothing effect of distancing or detachment. Facing difficult truths requires some psychological bravery to face the anguish of knowing what is happening to our awesome planet. From the above, we can also see that it requires scepticism, involving a dose of mistrust of corporate messaging, and the time to pay attention to everyday actions.