OK, the last post was a bit of fun, now for the serious part. Thank you to Matt Gitsham for his insights, which have largely inspired this post.
What frustrates me most about climate change is widespread ignorance of the issue, denial that there is a problem, and for those that understand the issue, a combination of apathy or even wilful inaction. Matt helped me make sense of it.
It makes more sense when you liken our addiction to fossil fuels to a substance addiction. The obvious things we could do to tackle climate change feel like self-denial , so there are good reasons that this analogy would hold. Don’t drive the car, switch off the lights (or use “dims”, as energy saving bulbs have been dubbed in my mother’s house), eat less meat and so on. It doesn’t have to be this way, by the way.
Thinking about it like an addiction can help understand how to change mind-sets. The documented stages of addiction are tellingly: obliviousness; denial; preparing to do something about it; doing something about it; and finally relapse. Crucially, it usually takes an emotional jolt for someone to move from the denial stage to preparing to do something about the addiction.
Given that the effects of climate change are inherently uncertain (we are predicting the future), you can begin to see why we remain stubbornly in the denial stage. The science is conclusive that climate change happening and its cause, but there is inherent uncertainty in the long term effect, how quickly they’ll come about and in linking individual events to the cause of climate change.
On top of that we have the psychology of “prisoner’s dilemma”. Tackling climate change will need the global community to work together, but we tend to act selfishly, as individuals and as countries. We tend to think that if other people and other countries aren’t doing enough, then why should we? It might not seem obvious, but this is another aspect of denial.
So someone wanting to de-rail action against climate change need only sow any doubt or excuse and we’ll buy it. As uncertainty is inherent, the job of denying climate change is easy.
That is why there is focus on the benefits of doing something about climate change rather than trying to kick our addiction by showing adverse effects. If you want to do the latter, you need to leave no room for doubt, which is impossible.
Thoughts below as always.