Psychology of Climate Change: Is It Not an Emergency Anymore?

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Meanwhile in a parallel universe, where Kyle Jenner’s lips have raised huge number of followers worldwide and where LGBT marriage has transitioned the millennial generation (not only in the US) to become a more open minded, tolerant, and respective global citizens, while the issue on climate change seems to be drowning. It is an issue that sparked long before the lips and the LGBT highlighted, but why is the sense of emergency faded away? 

It’s 2015 and the talk on climate change is not taboo anymore. The concept indeed is very complex and just like any other issues; it does require efforts to deal with. But is it because of the complexity and the term of climate change sounds quite nerdy that people started to put it aside of their plate and let other people who they think nerdy enough to deal with it? 

According to a study by Pew Research Center for People and The Press (2008), most Americans do not feel a personal connection to climate change. Although they are pretty much aware of the issue, they do not perceive it as an emergency that needs to be seriously addressed in a near future. What is wrong with climate change publication? Isn’t it a scary mayhem to face as a human being on earth? Are we still skeptical? Then why is climate change not viral anymore? Why did we never bring the talk to the dining table?

Dr. Judith Anderson explained during The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Summit (2014) the neurobiology of threat. In this particular case, climate change does not fit a basic threat responding capacities which are characterized by an immediate, visible, and certain impact caused by somebody/something else which need  immediate solutions. It is hard to accept short term cause and mitigate it to conquer something far away in the future. The fact that significant climate change impact will happen in 50 to 100 years from now tends to make us discount the future and also the way we should act to change it. According to a study by CRED (Center of Research on Environmental Decision) at the Columbia University (2009), “the human’s mind is not designed to immediately react to threats that seem to manifest themselves in the distant future, such as climate change. Distant risks do not set the same alarm as immediate risks do.” Humans tend to long for consistency for what they believe in. They usually don’t just accept things outside of their common sense. It takes further ado to prove their initial status quo and will definitely take times to perceive new things. 

It has been a contemporary consensus that all of us, the entire human on this planet, have caused the climate change. And it has been disabling us to perceive climate change personally because WE ALL do it. There have been no clear boundaries on our personal impact  to break down this planet eternally. 

Let’s say that people are already aware and already doing a movement for good to make a healthier planet. Then there is a thing called single action bias that happens quite a lot within communities all around the world. It is a natural response to an uncertain and biased phenomenon that humans tend to simplify the actions they could possibly do to counteract the matter. For example, in counteracting climate change we need to cut down our fossil fuel consumption, plant more trees and eliminate the use of plastic bags, all at once. But the practicalities of those three actions may become a little more complicated so people simplify it to one action, for example by eliminating the use of plastic bags only and still not doing the other two actions. They are doing pretty good in cutting down their plastic bags consumption. But imagine if technically that action only contributes a tiny part of counteracting climate change and they are still not executing the two other actions because they thought they have done enough. Climate change keeps getting worse and they will feel like there is nothing more to do because THEY THINK they have done enough. 

Honesty and proper communication in ‘advertising’ climate change is what we need to trigger immediate actions. There is a group of people who understand the science of climate change, who develop the legendary Keeling Curve, who understand what it takes to tackle climate change. But the majority of the world’s population does not. And if we are going to fix the situation, we essentially need to deliver the same level of understanding and the sense of emergency to every single head in the game. Rather than sugar coating the fact of climate change or to project it to impacts far away in the distant future, reflecting what climate change could bring to what really matters to a specific community sounds more triggering. For example information on the impacts of climate change on beaches for people in Bali is more understandable for them than facts on glaciers in the North Pole. So give them facts about their beaches, of how they are starting to lose their beaches overtime and of how severe the weather changes can affect their personal income. Explain them how this situation could result to fatal breakdown of food supply, national security, and peace as a human being. By getting them to know the fact that they are losing something that really matters will trigger an emotional response and urge the sense or emergency to drive immediate change. Because if it’s not us fixing this, then who else will. 

Unless there is a massive earthquake and volcanoes all around the world, all at once, at the end of the time our generations will all die in the climate change that we ignore today.  And we should be MORE THAN JUST AWARE of that.