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Humans are terrible at calculating risk. That’s bad news for the climate crisis
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Humans are terrible at calculating risk. That’s bad news for the climate crisis


Carrillo seized the few precious possessions he could and fled with his life as the floodwater rose quickly. When he returned home, he was overwhelmed by the stench and water damage from mold.

“If we don’t change the way we think, it’s going to get worse,” Carillo, who has been living in a temporary shelter for more than three months since Ida struck, said to CNN last month. “And I believe that all of this falls on our shoulders, but we can still make a difference.”

We are literally paying the price for our poor ability to assess climate risk and take preventative measures to avoid it.

Extreme weather disasters have become more common in the past five year. The United States costsMore than $750 billion The cost of clean energy measures is far less expensive than the price tag. Democrats’ package “Build Back Better”: $555 Billion over the course of 10 Years. CNN is told by analysts that clean energy incentives are necessary. The US would be the beneficiaryWithin striking distance of President Joe Biden’s ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions by half by 2030.
Scientists made an incredible discovery in the ocean's 'twilight zone' off Tahiti
To reach the goal would require a lot of effort. Global carbon emissionsThese actions will help to save lives and money, and prevent climate disasters in the US. Washington is still a little far from the complete package. Opponents SayIt’s just too expensive.

This is a high-stakes example that shows how our minds work when we weigh the risk and the cost of prevention.

Anthony Leiserowitz (director of Yale Program on Climate Change Communication) said that it is important to not underestimate the power of the human brain to rationalize its way out from reality. “People are much more complicated because they are preloaded with all these beliefs, attitudes and values as well as politics.”

President Joe Biden speaks at a press conference on the grounds of National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado, in September.
Since 2008, Yale has conducted six-monthly surveys of Americans to gauge their attitudes towards the climate crisis. The group This was found in December just 33% of Americans are “alarmed” about the crisis — something Scientists say we should — and strongly support climate action. Another 25% are “concerned” that global warming is a serious threat, but are less likely to take action.

This leaves less than half of the US population without any knowledge or concern about climate risk.

Leiserowitz stated that “for many people, climate changes is not even something they think about.”

‘Hero worship mentality’

Lisa Robinson, deputy director at Harvard University’s Center for Health Decision Science said that it is less that humans are poor at judging risks and more that we are overwhelmed with more acute pressures competing for attention such as Covid-19, being capable of affording groceries or rent or getting the kids to school.

Robinson said to CNN, “No matter how smart, educated, or smarter we are, we all have limits on how much information can be processed.” “Every day, we make a gazillion decisions.” We wouldn’t be able to survive if we had to think about each one.

Emissions rise from the coal-fired John E. Amos Power Plant in Winfield, West Virginia.

According to Lise van Susteren, a psychiatrist in Washington, DC and advisory board member of the Center for Health and the Global Environment (Harvard Medical School), there is another psychological mechanism that prevents us from dwelling on things which could harm us.

Our brains are wired to protect us from the truth when reality is difficult. On the other hand, we have an “optimism bias”, which favors pleasing information. We tend to engage those parts of our brain that reward.

A crucial ocean circulation is showing signs of instability. Its shutdown would have serious impacts on our weather.

Van Susteren explained to CNN, “This is how psychologically we are set up for stress management.” “Well, it’s possible in some cases that this is a good thing. Imagine we spend our whole lives thinking about dying — that wouldn’t be fun. So we suppress it.”

Van Susteren also suggested that humans have a hero worship mentality that is rooted in Hollywood and ancient stories about heroes. He would jump in to save a damsel who was in trouble. It’s unlikely that this will happen in the climate crisis. Also, humans don’t tend be able to understand the planet’s tipping factors, beyond which it may be impossible to save the climate.

“That is the fantasy that we have for the planet — that some technologic intervention” will save us at the last minute, Van Susteren said. We don’t know that climate tipping points will take control of the planet.

Communication failure

Aaron Bernstein, pediatrician and interim Director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, Harvard T.H. The Chan School of Public Health said that while there has been an “unbelievable” transformation in people’s understanding of climate crisis, more attention must be paid to how we communicate it.

Bernstein said that “the challenge is that we continue making the mistake of talking climate change like a polar bear problem rather than a people problem.” Bernstein spoke to CNN. It is important to connect the climate crisis to other issues in order to help people understand it as a threat to their families or themselves. Health, Race, HousingAnd Local environment.
Eric Traugott warms up his young son, Eric Jr., beside a fire outside of their apartment in Austin, Texas, in February 2021. A brutal cold snap that month left millions in the dark and without heat.

We are also running out of options that we can implement on an individual basis. Faith Kerns, a scientist writer and author of “Getting to the Heart of Science Communication. A Guide to Effective Engagement,” says that we are now in a phase of crisis.

Ditching fossil fuel subsidies can trigger unrest. Keeping them will kill the climate

“To me, it really comes down to homing in on what this systemic-versus-individual level of understanding is,” Kerns said. Kerns says the question is, “How do we encourage people who doubt science, as well people in power, to see the urgency and take immediate action?”

People care about their own health, especially when it is at risk. Gaurab Basu, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician, said that describing the climate crisis as a matter of equity and health is a way to make people realize the severity of the threat.

Basu said that “the truth is that greenhouse gases emissions are abstract and can be perceived not to impact people’s day, or the lives and loved ones of their loved ones.” “And so I believe that our job is to translate science and research into tangible benefits for people and the people they love.


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