For decades scientists have tried to make people care about climate change. We present compelling arguments with perfectly illustrated facts and figures. We organize conferences, write articles and report extreme weather events.
Despite clear data, only six in ten American adults believe that climate change could affect them personally, and a third still do not recognize human-caused climate change at all.
From a neuroscience point of view, this is not entirely surprising. Climate change is the perfect challenge for human beings. Our brains are better wired for impending threats, not those in the future. Especially when our current actions have little or no immediate impact – or worse, when our bad behavior is reinforced – it’s especially difficult to make changes.
Take gasoline vehicles for example. At least two-thirds of Americans agree these are bad for the environment, but most continue to use them – even many political leaders and activists who might otherwise afford to change. Why the contradiction?
It is not strictly about economics or infrastructure, although they certainly contribute to it. Much of this is arguably due to the fact that there is no immediate punishment for driving these vehicles and, rather, they usually offer us a reward by getting us where we need to go. Psychologically, there isn’t much to inspire immediate change, and even those who want EVs face perceived penalties such as higher upfront costs.
With this in mind, facts and figures can rarely compete with such reinforcements. Apart from strict regulations – which we should also enforce for this reason – what could help?
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One possibility may be to increase the perceived urgency through messages that make the subject more accessible on a daily basis. While it is very specific to discuss extreme weather events or long-term impacts on steel bridges, these can sometimes seem like more conceptual topics rather than everyday personal implications.
On the other hand, tackling climate change by highlighting the effects on popular topics like food could help stimulate interest on a more regular basis. For example:
In 25 to 30 years, cocoa production could be extinguished. In eight years, large chocolate companies are already expecting deficits estimated at 4.4 billion pounds. This stems from changes in cocoa growing environments, especially evapotranspiration, and chocolate makers have invested billions in bioengineering in hopes of saving their products. In this context, it’s almost as if every time you drive a gasoline car you kill a Kit Kat bar.
Industry executives predict that up to half of the land currently producing the best coffee beans could be inactive by 2050. In some areas, that number could reach 88%. This is in part due to a disease called “stem rust” which is increasing with climate change. As a small coffee farmer put it, “climate change is good… if you sell rust”.
Wine grapes are incredibly sensitive to climate change, which makes even small changes seem big. Winemakers are trying to overcome challenges with relocation and growing season strategies, but unfortunately some vineyards have already been lost due to extreme forest fires, heat exposure or severe drought.
Hopefully you’re ready to switch to gluten-free pasta, or at least willing to pay 50% more for the real deal, as durum wheat shortages are already happening due to extreme droughts. Other commodities like corn, beans and rice are also affected.
Thanks to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans, a process called ocean acidification threatens a wide range of species harvested as culinary delights, including scallops, oysters, lobsters, and many fish.
National public radio clearly has a social scientist writing its headlines. In a 2018 article titled “Climate Change Could Mean Less Maple Syrup for Your Pancakes,” the newspaper summed up the argument in one word: It may take 80 years for the full effects to be felt, but your child’s breakfast might be drier one day. than ever.
It’s the perfect time of year with pumpkin spice all. But climate change is costing you precious time. In data analyzed from 1952 to 2011, the researchers found that every season except summer was decreasing. Fall lost nearly a week during this time, with an average loss of one day per decade and growing.
Certainly, shortages or extinctions of popular foods are only one effect of a rapidly changing climate. However, focusing on popular topics can resonate more strongly than extreme weather messages thanks to the emotional relationship we have with them.
For political reasons, we may never be able to convince the remaining third of Americans that man-made climate change is a fact, but creating a heightened sense of urgency among Americans who do can help accelerate the process. political will to change policy.
Trish Zornio is a scientist, speaker and writer who has worked in some of the best universities and hospitals in the country. She is passionate about rock climbing and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.
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