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What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  236 ratings  ·  42 reviews

Why does knowing more mean believing—and doing—less? A prescription for change

The more facts that pile up about global warming, the greater the resistance to them grows, making it harder to enact measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare communities for the inevitable change ahead.

It is a catch-22 that starts, says psychologist and economist Per Espen Sto

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published April 3rd 2015 by Chelsea Green Publishing
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John Kaufmann
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climate-change
Excellent book, borderline 5-star. The book is about how people respond to messages about global warming, not the facts themselves. The author's goal is not on what facts about climate science the climate deniers and contrarians reject (i.e., he believes that even most conservatives fundamentally accept the science, but react to the implications on their value systems and deep-seated beliefs). Rather, his goal is on how to frame messages to avoid stirring some of the negative psychological react ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is great. It asks the question why - now that we have an overwhelming amount of evidence indicating that climate change is actually a thing - so many people still decline to accept the scientific consensus and act on it. Stoknes draws on several different fields of psychology (evolutionary psychology, social psychology, psychology of the mind etc.) and arrives at the conclusion that the doomsday prophets and fear-mongerers aren't helping at all. Many people who are presented with a doo ...more
Gustė Stasevičiūtė
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such an enlightening and wonderfully written book. I loved it.

‘More often than not, it is actually behavior that determines attitudes, not the other way around. If our lifestyles are far from climate-friendly, then our attitutes tend to follow.’
This book started a little clinical for me but by the end I was reading through it faster and faster. The change in how we frame the story and tell the story is crucial. As is the grounded optimism. Although he might not know it, much of his thinking is echoed from other directions, so this is another data point, coming from a scientific viewpoint, articulating the importance of changing how we look at our world. No blame, no name calling, just a call to think beyond the boundaries we have been ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fantastic - and quite mindful - book on the psychology of climate change denial, how we might actually make some traction on minimizing climate change/disruption, and reasons for what the author calls “grounded hope.”
C.S. Malerich
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good read indeed. Occasionally helpful, occasionally frustrating, ultimately validating.

Are humans psychologically capable of comprehending the scale of climate change? And responding? Stoknes wants to say "yes" to both, while admitting that the odds are stacked against us. The author is a psychologist by training, and sets out to apply the insights of his field to the need for a global human response to a human-caused global problem.

PART 1 describes psychological barriers which keep the avera
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is frustrated in this era of "alternative facts." The book dives deep into the psychology behind those who dispute the existence of climate change, and or believe in it but neglect to take action. It also presents practical solutions for how to talk about climate change in a way that better resonates with different audiences.

I do think the last third of the book doesn't quite fit with the rest of it; it's interesting, but doesn't belong here.
Mark Valentine
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stoknes organizes his book into three sections lifted straight from Aristotle: Thinking (theoria), Doing (praxis) and Being (poeisis). From there, it could be any number of books--it could be a socio-psychological study of climate deniers; it could be an inspirational [no pun intended] book for reclaiming the vision and sensation of being a fulfilled organism; it could be an action plan on how to enact the changes that need to be made; it could be a textbook for studying responses to this comple ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Stoknes's point about being positive instead of negative in communicating about climate change is part of an ongoing debate. Do you need to scare people about melting ice caps, wildfires, and coastal storms? Or is scaring people counterproductive?

Much ink has been spilled to argue both sides. "What We Think about When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming" won't end the debate, but if offers some good ideas if you're willing to try a positive approach.

After watching his TED talk I hoped this
Duncan Noble
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Finished reading this last summer. Very good. I'll try to post more later. ...more
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climate-crisis
Many people think that books about climate change are only going to remind them of the grim facts of climate change to make them feel guilty and potentially suggest some basic individual-level solutions to help them alleviate that guilt. I myself was one of these people, not that long ago. Stoknes' book has helped me realise that the guilt narrative is not the only narrative in climate change literature. What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming outlines causes that are d ...more
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was my in the car book to read during kids practices this summer. I flew through the first two sections and even took notes. The third section was a bog that I struggled through.
The examination of the roots of climate denialism and barriers to action fascinated me. I have always been so numbers/facts driven that I couldn’t understand why/how people could not see the overwhelming evidence that we are fucked. That we have fucked our kids lives too. Part 1 of this book made me realize that fa
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Interesting read for everyone who wants to act on climate change and is frustrated by the deniers

This book uses psychology to explain why most people do not take the necessary actions to prevent climate change and why the common way of communication about climate change and the related risks is not effective. The book also suggests how to do this differently and suggests severy approaches to more effective communication. Finally the third section of the book discusses the role of our world views
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent discussion of the psychology of climate change and strategies to,overcome denial and/or depression about the climate. The first section explains why there is so much resistance to accepting the reality. The author usefully examines insights from four psychological perspectives:evolutionary, cognitive, social, and identity. Summarizes with 5 psychological Barriers. Section two outlines strategies for overcoming these. Using Social networks, reframing, et. Section three takes ...more
Pam Kennedy
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the book anyone concerned almost as much about many folks' attitudes ( ranging from distancing to denial) regarding climate change as about climate change itself! The author clearly describes the all to human reactions that make communicating - even with our cherished family members and closest friends - about global warming, the escalating changes in the climate and ecosystem and the role of humans in this, so difficult. He gives strategies for reframing how information is presented and ...more
Einat Gavish
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really excellent analysis of the challenges of climate change action, a good look at denial (and a useful categorization of causes for denials) as well as a look at how to inspire action, followed by a perspective on how to exist as a person in the climate. A very interesting analysis that we have to feel more fully the depression and sadness associated with climate disruption instead of distracting ourselves from it.
Dani Scott
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book. Well researched and full of clear information on the psychology of climate change denial. If you have anyone in your life that is a "nonbeliever", this book will do you a world of good. As the author says: If the current way we present climate change research is not working, let's change gear! ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Exploring various subfields of psychology to explain why people are not working on this one big issue of our time. It can be a 3- or 4- star read if you do not come from a psychology background. The last of the three parts, "Being" can be quite an unusual addition to readers less accustomed to the existential school in psychology. ...more
Rosaly Byrd
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great read for any climate communicators. Really helpful and useful information that has completely changed the way I discuss and communicate issues of sustainability and climate change. Definitely recommend it!
Nicole Conlan
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting points about talking to people who don't believe in climate change. The last chapter was pretty philosophical and a little over my head, but I'm gonna give it another go. Would have liked more of Part 2 and less of Part 3. ...more
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
I feel bad giving this book only 2 stars, I am completely onside with the author's concerns about the environment, his recognition of some of the failures in presenting the climate crisis to society, and his proposed solutions; simply put, the writing style of this book just never engaged me. ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I used this book as "guidance" for creating an interactive conference workshop. Good outline of the psychological barriers, and how we may start to overcome them. ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
i give the book a 3.5 however it is an easy read and an important book everyone should read
Lindsay Smith-Munoz
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even if you are not feeling confused despair about the prevalence of climate change denialism, this is an interesting read.
Jan Stanton
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lot of food for thought and discussion with others.
David Harestad
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book, but the part about breathing was for me borderline woo woo, skip it if you want
Michael Fredslund
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: klimabog
Third part became a little too religious to my liking.
Jul 31, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
Heard a very good interview with the author on the You Are Not So Smart podcast
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A vital framework for climate communication
Teo 2050


Stoknes PE (2015) What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming - Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action

Foreword by Jorgen Randers

Introduction: Battering One Another
• Thinking About the Future
• Confronting the Climate Paradox

Part I: Thinking: Understanding the Climate Paradox

01. The Psychological Climate Paradox

02. “Climate Is the New Marx”: The Many Faces of Skepticism and Denial
• States of Denial
• At What Levels Is Deni
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