A List of 'Psychologies' in the Global Warming Story

This reporter heard a famous scientist (who's now in the federal government) at an off-the-record international climate seminar at Harvard University admit to a large audience there that, "We scientists are sometimes loathe to talk openly of how serious global warming may be because we don't want to paralyze the public."

"The public" deals in both "group psychology" and "psychology of groups."

5. Group Psychology

This is clearly of the greatest importance if humanity is to "get this right," as Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said humanity must.

The zeitgeist-conscious, 1930's, Depression-era filmmakers of the Andy Hardy movies depicted a helpful if perhaps naive group psychology every time they had Mickey Rooney's or Judy Garland's eyes grow suddenly wide, as they said, "I've got it! We'll all put on the best darn show this town has ever seen!"

Cut to montages of joyous group effort and then a great show in Uncle Joe's barn amid all of which the problem the town was facing somehow evaporated.

In the U.S. Congress, this is called "the can-do spirit." At a hearing on climate change many months ago, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked former Democratic Vice President Al Gore about how government might help inspire the "can-do spirit" among Americans in the battle with global warming.

After Pearl Harbor, it wasn't hard for such group psychology to lock in against fascism. Climate scientists have long warned that if humanity waits for a real "climate Pearl Harbor" to fire up global group psychology, it could well be too late.

6. Groups (Plural) Psychologies

Americans divide up into roughly six groups on global warming, according to a survey conducted by Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Where would you place yourself -- or various relatives and friends?

Alarmed -- 18 percent
Concerned -- 33 percent
Cautious -- 19 percent
Disengaged -- 12 percent
Doubtful -- 11 percent
Dismissive -- 7 percent

Leiserowitz told ABC News that, in a way, this division into six may be partly arbitrary -- one might describe 12 or 20 such categories in relation to climate change -- but that it nonetheless gives a reliable general picture of public attitudes.

There is also an underlying psychological reality that is apparently illuminated by another study.

Psychologist Richard Mollica, who runs the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at the Massachusetts General Hospital, told ABC News that decades of surveys around the world have found that traumatized people tend to group into various categories of mental vulnerability, regardless of ethnicity, religion, culture, race or even the type of trauma suffered.

The general lesson for the climate crisis, said Mollica, may be that regardless of the solidity of the science about climate change, there always may tend to be groups with differing reactions to it.

Recognizing this difference of styles that some scientists say may even be built into the human genome may have a calming effect.

It may help soften the urgent desire you might feel for everyone else to react to the same problem with the same psychological style you do.

7. The 'Cessna,' One of Denial's Disguises -- and 'Meaning Systems'

You can find much on the Internet about the many forms climate change denial can take.

This reporter spotted one that I've dubbed "the Cessna." Psychologists have confirmed that it's a common phenomenon.

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