climate change denial and inaction are related

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 minutes.

THE TWIN PHE­NOM­ENON of de­nial and in­ac­tion are re­lated to one an­other, at least in the con­text of cli­mate change. They are also com­plex, both in the gen­eral sense of “com­pli­cated and in­tri­cate,” and in the tech­nical psy­cho­log­ical sense of “a group of re­pressed feel­ings and anx­i­eties which to­gether re­sult in ab­normal behaviour.”

In his book States of De­nial, the late psy­cho­an­a­lytic so­ci­ol­o­gist Stanley Cohen de­scribed three forms of de­nial. Al­though his frame­work was de­vel­oped from an­a­lyzing geno­cide and other atroc­i­ties, it ap­plies just as well to our in­di­vidual and col­lec­tive in­ac­tion in the face of the over­whelming sci­en­tific ev­i­dence of human-induced cli­mate change.


ClimateChangeCartoon JustinBilicki 700 1

Car­toon by Justin Bil­icki.

1. The first form of de­nial is lit­eral de­nial. It is the simple, con­scious, out­right re­jec­tion that some­thing hap­pened or is happening—that is, lying. 1

2. The second form of de­nial is in­ter­pre­tive de­nial. Here, people do not con­test the facts but in­ter­pret them in ways that dis­tort their meaning or im­por­tance. 2

3. The third and most in­sid­ious form is im­pli­ca­tory de­nial. The facts of cli­mate change are not de­nied, nor are they in­ter­preted to be some­thing else. What is de­nied or min­i­mized are the psy­cho­log­ical, po­lit­ical, and moral im­pli­ca­tions of the facts for us. We fail to ac­cept re­spon­si­bility for re­sponding; we fail to act when the in­for­ma­tion says we should. 3

The para­graphs above were lifted from “There Are Three Types of Cli­mate Change Denier—and Most of Us Are at Least One” by Iain Walker and Zoe Lev­iston (

To read the ar­ticle in its en­tirety, click HERE.



1   The word lit­eral means “ad­hering to fact or to the or­di­nary con­struc­tion or pri­mary meaning of a term or ex­pres­sion” and “free from ex­ag­ger­a­tion or em­bell­ish­ment.” (Merriam-Webster) This word is being mis­used with alarming fre­quency among younger readers.

2   I hope we all know what in­ter­pre­tive means.

3   The word im­pli­ca­tory is de­rived from imply, which means “to in­volve or in­di­cate by in­fer­ence, as­so­ci­a­tion, or nec­es­sary con­se­quence rather than by di­rect state­ment.” (Merriam-Webster) The term im­pli­ca­tory de­nial seems a tad awkward.



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