Psychologist Per Espen Stoknes identifies five key barriers that prevent people from caring about climate change: distance, doom, dissonance, denial, and identity. Climate change is perceived as a distant problem, both in time and space, which makes it less immediate to individuals. Doom-laden messages about climate change often lead to fear, apathy, or both, while cognitive dissonance occurs when people’s actions conflict with their knowledge of climate change, leading to mental discomfort. Denial is a common defence mechanism, and identity plays a role when accepting climate change conflicts with a person’s cultural or political identity.

Stoknes suggests that to overcome these barriers, climate change communication should be localised, supportive, and simple. It should tell positive stories, focus on the here and now, and provide simple actions that people can take. He also advocates for a shift from guilt and fear-based messaging to a focus on solutions and shared benefits. Lastly, Stoknes proposes that climate change should be framed as an issue of innovation and job creation, rather than a problem requiring sacrifice and loss.

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