I think that policy people assume that climate change denial will eventually go away. It’s a matter of time before we work out how to win over these people on the neo-liberal right. Here is a very different scenario which is plausible enough.
We fall into denial when we are confronted about something which unsettles our self-image or our view of the world. Share a bottle of wine with me and all’s well. Call me an alcoholic and I’ll feel uncomfortable and make up excuses.
Today we say that most deniers are libertarians and people with interests in energy. That might be because they are the first to be confronted. They are on the front-line, defending freedom; even the slightest rustle of policy-making makes them jittery, because it calls into question their raison d’etre.
As climate change legislation widens its front, more and more people will find their self-images under threat. Not just flag-bearers of freedom, but truck-drivers, petrol pump attendants, commuters, pilots, miners, steel workers, builders, farmers, butchers, home-owners … everybody. All of us.
So all of us will be confronted, as climate policy starts to bite. Sooner or later, then, we will all become deniers.