Prof claims used ‘mass hypnosis’ to motivate public to believe in ‘global warming’

Comment A trick-cyclist who promised several years ago to use a new form of mass hypnosis to get the public motivated to fight climate change claims that he’s done it. In fact the claim is bogus: it is itself part of his attempt to carry out his plan of manipulating public opinion.

The trick-cyclist is, as regular readers of these pages will have guessed, Professor Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff uni. Several years ago, the prof (a specialist in “social and decision sciences”) stated publicly that he and his fellow soft-studies academics should develop a new method of manipulating public opinion, one that would work better than normal advertising or propaganda. This new and more powerful discipline of mass hypnosis should be used to condition the public into a state where they would support drastic action against the perceived dangers of man-made climate change.

At the time, we compared Pidgeon’s proposed new methods to Isaac Asimov’s science-fictional discipline of “psychohistory”, a set of methods which could be used to manipulate the behaviour of large populations without their knowledge.

Pidgeon wrote then that the key was to arouse the right emotions in the public:

Emotion is an integral part of our thinking … Emotion creates the abiding commitments needed to sustain action on difficult problems, such as climate change … appropriately framed emotional appeals can motivate action, given the right supporting conditions (in particular a sense of personal vulnerabilityand [a sense of] the support of others).

(Our italics.)

Obviously when you want to give people the feeling that they are personally vulnerable to climate change it would make sense to point to some natural disaster such as the 2013/14 floods and suggest that they were caused by climate change, and that there will be more of this as a result of climate change. If you want to suggest that there is strong support from other people for action on climate change, it would be a cunning plan to tell them that other people overwhelmingly support such action.

Funnily enough, Professor Pidgeon has done just those things. In a press release issued today, he says:

The British public’s belief in the reality of climate change and its human causes rose significantly last year – and is now at its highest since 2005 … In December 2013 and January 2014, an exceptional run of winter storms hit the UK, leading to widespread flooding … such extremes of weather are predicted to be more frequent and severe in the UK under a changed climate … The flooding events were seen as a sign of things to come … Regarding support for political action, around three-quarters (74 per cent) of people surveyed in the national sample supported the UK signing up to international agreements to limit carbon emissions, with only 7 per cent opposing this measure … This finding above all sends a clear signal to the UK government.

In summary: YOU are PERSONALLY VULNERABLE to climate change and there is strong SUPPORT FROM OTHERS for action against it (that is against carbon emissions).

But hold on – Professor Pidgeon didn’t just say those things. They are the result of “research” in the “social and decision sciences”. Specifically, they are the result of a massive survey of what the British people think carried out by Ipsos MORI, which the prof got the government (ie, you) to pay for.

It’s just an amazing bit of luck for the prof, then, that the survey said exactly what he had specified it should say several years previously.

Oh wait, no it isn’t. Because actually it doesn’t really back up his message at all. Skipping over Pidgeon’s waffley advertorial propaganda “research paper” (it’s not a peer-reviewed publication or anything, just a lengthy pseudoscientific polemic written by the prof and some pals*) to the actual survey results, we find out the following things.

No we don’t all think climate change is a big deal. No we don’t all agree it’s mainly human-caused. No we don’t all want massive government action on it.

The British people don’t think climate change is very important. It’s not even in the top five. The survey showed that people ranked it as the ninth most important issue facing Britain today, behind race/immigration, the economy, unemployment and lack of industry, health care, terrorism, crime, poverty, housing, and education.

A substantial and increasing majority of Brits are largely unconcerned about climate change. In 2005, 72 per cent of respondents answered that they were not very concerned about climate change. That has now risen to 82 per cent.

Only a minority of people think that climate change is mainly or entirely due to human activity. In this survey, 36 per cent thought that climate change is mainly or entirely caused by humans: the rest disagreed with this idea, apart from 2 per cent who put “don’t know”.

Right away it’s clear that people don’t really care about climate change and don’t agree that it’s mainly caused by humans.

Going on, we see:

There is very little support for “Tax increases to pay for more renewable energy”. Some 60 per cent didn’t support that idea at all, and only 9 per cent strongly supported it. Which is a shame as such tax increases are happening and will keep happening under current government policy, albeit hidden on energy bills rather than in plain sight on your P60. Democracy not really working, there.

Professor Pidgeon was being especially mendacious when he claimed that “around three quarters of people surveyed in the national sample supported the UK signing up to international agreements to limit carbon emissions”. Just 29 per cent said they “strongly supported” this policy, the other 46 per cent the prof claims merely ticked “tend to support”. A more truthful statement would be “around 70 per cent of Brits do not strongly support the UK signing up to international carbon agreements”.

Hardly anyone wants political action on climate change. Just 14 per cent thought it likely they would ever even write to their MP on climate matters.

People don’t agree that changing their lifestyle can make a difference to climate change. Just 27 per cent supported that idea.

People don’t think the reason the ’13/’14 floods happened was climate change. The three main factors, according to the survey respondents, were (in order): building in flood-prone areas, insufficient investment in flood defences, and poor river and coastal management. Climate change came a distant fourth.

All this is indeed a “clear signal to the UK government”: but it’s not the signal Professor Pidgeon wants to send, quite the reverse. And nor does the survey send the message that the prof wants to send to the British people. The fact is, Brits, on the evidence of this survey your fellow Britons do not think that they or you are threatened by climate change. Nor do your fellow Britons show any sign of strongly supporting political action against it.

It has to be said, so far Professor Pidgeon’s brilliant new Psychohistory-style green activism tactics seem pretty similar to old-school 1940s style propaganda. Just say what you wish was true – “everybody thinks climate change is very serious and supports massive action against it” – and if you repeat it frequently and loudly enough people will start to believe it.

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