According to Norwegian psychologist and Greens politician Per Espen Stoknes, the story of climate change must be 75 percent focused on solutions and 25 percent on threats, in order to successfully pass the so-caled “doomsday barrier” and be properly absorbed by the public.
Norwegian psychologist and Green Party politician Per Espen Stoknes has argued that in order for Greta Thunberg’s climate message to reach home with a broader public, she has to focus more on solutions, rather than doomsday predictions that dominate the news flow.
According to Stoknes, who has been researching how people absorb information about the climate crisis, most people have a “doomsday barrier” in the brain that filters out information. In his book “What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming”, he ventured that our worries about the coming doomsday seem to diminish the closer we actually get, calling this “the psychological climate paradox”.
“Most people worry about what happens next week, not in three decades”, Stoknes told national Swedish broadcaster SVT.
Instead of focusing on the damage and the consequences, according to Stoknes, the story has to be presented in a different way.
“When scientists start talking about an impending apocalypse, most people can not absorb it”, he said. “We need a new, more balanced story. 75 percent should be on the solution and 25 percent on the threats”, Per Espen Stoknes said.
Throughout his work, Per Espen Stoknes has identified five obstacles in the climate debate that reduce mankind’s commitment. These include Doomsday (“apocalyptic” texts that claim the end is near that paralyse the reader), Distance (people tending to focus on the near future), Dissonance (the feeling that our standard of living does not correspond to what we should do for the environment), Denial (maintaining that mankind’s habits aren’t harmful for the climate), and, Identity (seeking out information that confirms our existing values and beliefs and filtering out what challenges them).
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg rose to international prominence through her solo protests outside of the Swedish parliament. In 2019, she took a gap year from school to raise awareness about climate change, gaining undivided worldwide attention and becoming the figurehead of the international climate movement.
The 18-year-old became a frequent guest at major summits and conferences, including the United Nations, where she notoriously trounced world leaders for their inability to address the issues of pollution, degradation, and climate change.
In recent years, Thunberg has harvested numerous accolades and prizes, including several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.