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Haverford College

Publication Date

Fall 2018

Program Name

Iceland and Greenland: Climate Change and The Arctic


As climate change becomes an increasingly devastating issue it seems as if concern dwindles just as severely. Climate change lends itself so readily to apathy, but why? The overarching goal of this paper is to figure out the answer to a seemingly simple question: why do people have such a difficult time understanding and acting on climate change? The process of answering this question is a bit more complicated, and for the scope of this paper, the process is twofold. First, I aim to uncover the psychological barriers that prevent climate change response. Discussion of these psychological barriers includes insights from multiple schools of psychology, as well as a summation of these barriers into “The Five D’s,” which are Distance, Doom, Denial, Dissonance, and iDentity. Second, I explore how these barriers inform climate change communication. By strategically bypassing these barriers with different communication strategies – Social, Supportive, Simple, Story-based, and Signals – better climate change communication can be achieved. Additionally, this paper features a small-scale survey assessing potential trends in psychological barriers to response. Results from both literature review and the survey overwhelmingly indicate the need to move away from communicating climate change as an abstract, looming, global issue, and to communicate it at a personal level and in a way that encourages action.


Environmental Studies | International and Area Studies | Other Psychology


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