An audience of Concordia students and faculty waited patiently for Canadian broadcaster Jay Ingram to take the stage last week, likely expecting a discussion on the effects of Climate Change on the Earth. But the journalist and author surprised many in the crowd by addressing the problem of the environmental debate itself, and why people are biased towards believing their own truths rather the facts of global warming.
“The essence of the argument is not about data, but social psychology,” Ingram said.
The host of the Discovery Channel’s science news program Daily Planet pointed out that if people understood the scientific findings of global warming they would realize the earth is changing and that people are the main contributors to climate change. He said that North Americans admit that they do not know enough about global warming, but they distrust the sources gathering the data.
“How you react to new information is determined,” Ingram explained, “[…] by where you are socially and culturally.”
Ingram sat in-front of his audience in the Hall building and argued that people are programmed to believe only certain sources. He said that when a person is presented with two sets of arguments that have authoritative sources refuting or agreeing with climate change, the person will automatically align themselves with the article that justifies their lifestyle. Ingram said no one wants to admit they are damaging the earth.
“Information is never just information,” Ingram said. “It always has to be matched to your set of opinions.”
Chad Walcott, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations vice-president of external and sustainability, found it interesting that Ingram went as far as to say that biology determines the way people think about an issue. Ingram said that depending on where the person lives and who their parents are, they are biologically predetermined to think a certain way, evidencing this claim by using research from the United States about the brain activities of Democrats and Republicans.
Ingram said that researchers noticed the brains of each group reacted differently to the set of questions asked, and that the brain scans had a 70 per cent accuracy rate in determining if a person was Republican or Democrat.
Though, not everyone is locked into a position of thinking, Ingram added.
According to Ingram, the majority of Americans are not well informed about climate change and because of that if scientists learn how deliver their message they may convince the undecided.
Ingram remains sceptical that people will change if there is not an effort made to understand why climate change deniers think a certain way. He said understanding the background of a community can help scientist and environmentalist get their message across that the earth is in trouble.
He also said that for people to change their opinions they have to believe the authoritative person who relays the information.
“The most effective thing in this society is to elect someone who is going to do something,” Ingram said.