Report from APA Council

This discusses APA's sound financial position, presidential initiatives, global climate change and other environmentally-sensitive issues

By Susan D. Clayton, PhD

Division 34 Representative The recent APA Council meeting covered a variety of topics, including a discussion of presidential initiatives and a report on APA’s financial position – which is sound. A resolution was also passed that will lower APA dues across the board for 2012, while eliminating some discounts that currently exist for people holding membership in two related professional organizations.

There are several items of particular interest to division 34 members. A proposition introduced by Janet Swim and Lynn Cooper to affirm psychological research on global climate change was overwhelmingly approved. The resolution is printed below. This is a good reminder of the power to use APA to draw attention to important issues. I was also pleased, as a first-time Council member, to see that, since 1999, APA has reported annually on “progress toward environmentally-responsible practice,” including resource reduction, reuse, and recycling. In August of 2010, the APA voted to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions. It is also seeking LEED certification for one of its buildings, and annually reports on the environmental impact and practices of its buildings. The buildings are performing well: Both APA-owned buildings have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions and are below the national average for similar buildings. This is due in part to the introduction of a range of new energy-saving policies, such as installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs and motion sensors. Other Report from APA Council environmentally-sensitive practices include an emphasis on recycling and buying recycled products; utilizing email rather than paper; reusable coffee mugs rather than disposable; adding bike racks to the parking garage, and more.

APA is reviewing its governance system to see if it can be more effective and efficient. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to email me about them and I will communicate them to the working group.

As one person at the meeting put it, APA membership can be seen as a type of commons dilemma. APA staff work to advance the recognition and impact of psychological science, including efforts to protect our sources of funding, to disseminate the results of our research to politicians and policymakers, to preserve the history of psychology, and in general to enhance the legitimacy and relevance of the discipline. Each individual has to decide whether to pay the dues, but the benefits accrue to the discipline as a whole.

Text of the Resolution

WHEREAS there is near consensus among climate scientists that global climate change is occurring faster than anticipated, starting in the late 1990's and early 2000's, and there will be greater global climate change if greenhouse gases are not reduced (Confalonieri et al., 2007; Gilman, Randall, & Schwartz, 2007; Sokolov, et al., in press);

WHEREAS climate scientists now agree that recent dramatic climate change is associated with human behavior that has resulted in increasing emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2; CH4; N2O)(1PCC, 2007; National Research Council, 2010; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009,), and psychologists can provide a behavioral analyses of such contributions (APA Task- Force report on Global Climate Change);

WHEREAS there is a need for inter- and cross-disciplinary research on Global Climate Change that includes the social and behavioral sciences, and psychologists have been and are collaborators and participants in such research (APA Task report on Global Climate Change, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, 2009; Fischhoff, B., & Furby, L., 1983; National Research Council, 2010);

WHEREAS the impacts of climate change are increasing globally and include the destruction of habitats and subsequent threats to endangered species, acidity of water, disasters (e.g. forest fires), extreme weather (e.g., hurricanes, heat waves), decreasing availability of water, and spreading of diseases, harming plants, wildlife, human physical heath, settlements, and psychological well-being, and are a threat to social, economic, and environmental sustainability (IPCC, 2007; APA task force report on Psychology and Climate Change, 2009);

WHEREAS psychologists have shown a concern about individual and institutional discrimination (e.g., APA Resolution on Poverty and SES, 2000; APA resolution on Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimina tion, 2006); and climate change has already had disproportionate impact on the poor, including greater impacts on women and children, on rural regions and their inhabitants, and is anticipated to have greater effects on already disadvantaged populations including but not limited to persons with disabilities (APA task force report on Psychology and Climate Change, 2009; International Disability and Development Consortium, 2008; National Research Council, 2010);

WHEREAS the APA in its mission and vision statements and in its ethical code of conduct indicates that psychologists are committed to creating, applying, and communicating our knowledge to improving individual and societal conditions and facilitating the resolution of global challenges;

WHEREAS there is a persistent resistance among many to accept the findings of climate change science due to a variety of psychological and social factors, ranging from not knowing or understanding the science and scientific review processes, to psychological threats that accompany accepting global climate change, to outright manipulation of science designed to undermine belief in both climate change and human's contribution to climate change (Feygina, Goldsmith, & Jost, in press; Flynn, Slovic & Kunreuther, 2001; Kazdi, 2009; Moser and Dilling, 2007; Pidgeon, Kasperson, & Slovic, 2003; APA Task report on Global Climate Change; Vess & Arndt, 2008).

WHEREAS psychology as a discipline is well-suited to address important behavioral and methodological aspects of understanding human behavioral contribution and responses to global climate change (APA task force report on Psychology and Climate Change (Clayton & Brook, 2005, Gifford, 2007; Uzzell & Moser, 2009);

WHEREAS APA is committed to education in psychology and the dissemination of sound psychological science both in and out of the classroom.

WHEREAS APA Council approved a research agenda on environmental problems proposed by a 1993 Task Force on Psychology and Environmental Problems (Cvetkovich, G.T. & Wener, R., 1994).

THEREFORE it is resolved that APA reaffirms its recognition of the importance of psychological aspects of human environment relations;

THEREFORE it is resolved that APA supports psychologists' involvement in scientific research on global climate change and on the role of human behavior as a significant contributor to these changes;

THEREFORE it is resolved that APA recognizes the current and anticipated psychosocial impacts of climate change, especially for already underprivileged and marginalized groups, in addition to the bio- and geophysical impact and the ethical imperative of addressing climate change via adaptation and mitigation;

THEREFORE it is resolved that APA recognizes the role of psyche-social processes in perceptions and beliefs about global climate change that can potentially hinder public understanding of global climate change.

THEREFORE it is resolved that APA supports psychologists' involvement in research, education, and community interventions in improving public understanding of global climate change impacts and psychological contributions to mitigation and adaptation efforts that address both environmental and human, including psychological, impacts of Global Climate Change.