For people to fight against global warming, policymakers, scientists and marketers need to look at psychological barriers to change and what leads people to action, says task force.
Scientific evidence shows the main influences of climate change are behavioral, population growth and energy consumption.
"What is unique about current global climate change is the role of human behavior," said task force's American Psychological Association (APA) chair, Janet Swim of Pennsylvania State University. "We must look at the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act," she added.
APA's Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change examined decades of psychological research and practice that have been specifically applied and tested in the arena of climate change, such as environmental and conservation psychology and research on natural and technological disasters.
The task force presented its findings at APA's 117th Annual Convention in Toronto in a report that was accepted by the association's governing Council of Representatives.
The task force's report offers a detailed look at the connection between psychology and global climate change and makes policy recommendations for psychological science.
It cites a national Pew Research Center poll in which 75 percent to 80 percent of respondents said that climate change is an important issue.
But, respondents ranked it last in a list of 20 compelling issues, such as the economy or terrorism.
Despite warnings from scientists and environmental experts that limiting the effects of climate change means humans need to make some severe changes now, people don't feel a sense of urgency.
The task force said numerous psychological barriers are to blame, including uncertainty, mistrust, denial, undervaluation of risks, lack of control and habit.
The task force identified areas where psychology can help limit the effects of climate change, such as developing environmental regulations, economic incentives, better energy-efficient technology and communication methods.
"Many of the shortcomings of policies based on only a single intervention type, such as technology, economic incentives or regulation, may be overcome if policy implementers make better use of psychological knowledge," the task force wrote in the report.
"The expertise found in a variety of fields of psychology can help find solutions to many climate change problems right now," Swim said.