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As Greens Slip in Climate Polls, Wash Post Diagnoses 'Emotional Dead Spots' in 'American Brains'

On Tuesday, the Washington Post's Health & Science section was headed by a story contending global warming skeptics need a psychologist. David Fahrenthold's piece was headlined: "It's natural to behave irrationally: Climate change is just the latest problem that people acknowledge but ignore." It began:

To a psychologist, climate change looks as if it was designed to be ignored.

It is a global problem, with no obvious villains and no one-step solutions, whose worst effects seem as if they'll befall somebody else at some other time. In short, if someone set out to draw up a problem that people would not care about, one expert on human behavior said, it would look exactly like climate change.

That's the upshot of a spate of new research that tries to explain stalled U.S. efforts to combat greenhouse-gas emissions by putting the country on the couch.

The Post's designated guru was Duke behavioral scientist Dan Ariely: "We are collectively irrational, in the sense that we should really care about the long-term well-being of the planet, but when we get up in the morning, it's very hard to motivate ourselves."

Fahrenthold, like many liberals, finds it very plausible that conservatism (or simple skepticism about massive statist policy initiatives) displays scientific evidence of "emotional dead spots" in "American brains." Get a load:

Psychologists studying the issue say that the now-familiar warnings about climate change kick at emotional dead spots in all human brains - but especially in American brains.

Researchers have only theories to explain why people in the United States have done less than those in such places as Europe and Japan. Some think Americans are culturally leery of programs the government might develop to target climate change, trusting instead that the free market will solve major problems.

One U.S. researcher thought television is to blame: All those TV ads have made Americans more focused on their own wants, she theorized, and less likely to care about the long-term good.

Denying the impending crisis, Dan Ariely surmised, is just like "why we don't exercise, and we overeat, and we bite our fingernails...It's not something where we're going to overcome human nature."

For green groups, "researchers suggested a new set of back-door appeals, designed essentially to fool people into serving their own - and the planet's - best interests."

American brains are apparently not bright or compassionate enough to save the planet without being "fooled."

- Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.