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Heretics, hoax and climate

A UBC Okanagan professor is interested in what makes a climate change skeptic tick.

Greg Garrard, a professor of sustainability, has partnered with academics at four universities around the world to investigate how climate change skeptics differ across different countries, and where this skepticism comes from.

“Studies show they tend to be older, wealthy, white men for the most part, so there’s kind of sociological studies that have been done but no one’s really ever before engaged with what they’ve been writing,” said Garrard. “No one’s been really taking them seriously as writers and that’s what we decided to do.”

He says in the United Kingdom, skeptics portray themselves as heretics, because all the main political parties agree with the climate change science, while in America, skeptics seem to portray climate change as a hoax.

“It’s portrayed as this group of liberal scientists trying to con the American people,” Garrard said. “That obviously reflects the very different place of climate science in American politics.”

He says by studying this group of people, Garrard and his colleagues can break down certain stereotypes.

“We’re supposed be suspicious of stereotypes – stereotypes of women, stereotypes of gay men, or whatever, but no one seems to question stereotypes of conservatives,” Garrard said. “I think that that’s a mistake. Stereotypes are bad for our thinking no matter what they’re stereotypes of.”

He says his larger goal is to challenge the divide between the right and the left when it comes to polarizing issues like climate change.

The panel discussion between Garrard and four other international academics takes place on June 7 at 6 p.m. at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

Each speaker will give a 10-minute summary of what they have found while researching their particular country.

They plan to eventually turn their research into a book.

“It’s about understanding, we want to understand climate skepticism better,” Garrard said. “We’re not trying to change anyone’s minds, we’re just trying to understand how things look from their perspective.”

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