The Psychological Aspect of Climate Change

The following is my own translation of a column written by Caterina Fox for the German journal energiezukunft. It is her report from the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference held one year ago in Washington.

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From a psychological point of view climate change is a problem virtually condemned to be ignored. It is a global problem but without obvious “bad guys”. There is no straightforward solution, and it looks as if the most severe consequences will be borne by somebody else. In short: would somebody have wanted to create a problem that nobody cares about – it would look exactly like global warming. And obviously this emotionally “dead corner” is particularly evolved in US-American minds. While the consequences of climate change are already perceivable in many places in the world, for Americans it still seems far too distant. “Psychological distance” is the name the psychologists attending the conference have for this. A tendency to defend the status quo is another explanation. Eventually, effective climate protection would have to be associated with consequent change in behaviour. And, finally, every human being has a finite “concern pool” and is therefore able to think about only a limited amount of problems.

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As I already have written, that is one of the biggest problems of global warming: people don’t care enough, and that not because they are cruel, but because they are human beings.

Unfortunately, the only thing that we can do is to try to convince people that we have to do something, incentivize them to do something… And do something by ourselves.

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