Kari Marie Norgaard, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of Oregon, told this week's Planet Under Pressure Conference in London needed responses to the problem of climate change are being blunted by cultural inertia "that exists across spheres of the individual, social interaction, culture and institutions."
"We find a profound misfit between dire scientific predictions of ongoing and future climate changes and scientific assessments of needed emissions reductions on the one hand, and weak political, social or policy response on the other," a UO release reported Norgaard as saying.
In the last 30 years, Norgaard said, climate change has been seen as either a hoax or fixable with minimal political or economic intervention.
"This kind of cultural resistance to very significant social threat is something that we would expect in any society facing a massive threat," she said.
The resistance at individual and societal levels must be addressed before real action can be taken to mitigate human-caused contributions to climate change, she said.
"We must first be aware that this resistance is happening at all levels of our society," Norgaard said. "If you have to push a heavy weight, it doesn't mean it can't be moved, but in order to push it you had better know that you have something heavy and figure out how to move it -- where to put the lever to shift the weight."