A Few Things Ill Considered

Global Warming is happening too slowly

Global Warming is happening too slowly. Or so says Dan Gilbert, psycholgist and author of the book “Stumbling on Happiness“.

Watch this video for a psychologist’s explanation of why we are failing to act in the face of the global threat that is climate disruption.

(click here for the page at popcast if the embed doesn’t work)

The video is about 15 minutes long and presents some evolutionary psychological reasons why global warming does not trigger our proper threat response mechanisms. He is a good speaker, so it is not as boring as it sounds like it could be!

(hat tip to China at the Crossroads)

Comments

  1. #1 James
    August 6, 2008

    Many thanks for the link, Coby.

    Dan Gilbert is a scientist who understands how to frame research findings in a manner that is understandable, even enjoyable to the average person.

    I found Dan Gilbert’s book, “Stumbling On Happiness”, an absolutely great read. It truly altered my perspective regarding my personal quest for happiness. Now, knowing the science which governs the human concept of happiness, I find myself freed (unfortunately, not totally) of much of the pressure to ‘find’ happiness.

    I liked the book so much I bought another copy to send to my daughter and granddaughters.

    Again, thanks.

  2. #2 tidal
    August 6, 2008

    Coby, thanks for posting this.

    I think there are some interesting insights there, but I am not sure I am really “sold”. If I understand Gilbert correctly, he suggests that we respond appropriately to threats that exhibit at least some of the characteristics of “personal, abrupt, immoral, now”.

    How would he characterize our response w.r.t. CFC’s and ozone depletion? That threat had many of the same characteristics as global warming, insofar as Gilbert’s parameters go. Maybe the major impacts were predicted at the half-century scale rather than the century-plus scale, or the “abruptness” when the rapid deterioration in polar ozone was detected was a trigger for decisive action. But our response to that threat is totally out of proportion to our response to climate change, which is at least as severe a threat. To me, clearly something else is going on to short-circuit our collective ability to perceive/respond effectively to the threat.

    The 2007 arctic sea ice melt and the signs of methane release from permafrost… these aren’t “abrupt” and “now” enough? Something else is at play. The IPCC, the national academies of science… almost all governments are formally acknowledging the threat – despite the nature of the threat “missing” all of Gilbert’s key criteria – but we’re not acting…

    I think it has to do with the vested interests intentionally subverting effective responses. But that is something we are overcoming.

    If, on the other hand, the problem truly is as you headline it – “Global Warming is happening too slowly” – because of some sort of species-wide genetic incapacity to comprehend the threat on the timescales it plays out in, then we are truly in a desperate spiral. I just don’t think this is the case, and I think Gilbert is missing something critical in his still-informative analysis.

  3. #3 coby
    August 6, 2008

    Hi tidal,

    I agree with you, there are other factors at play and you have identified the main one (ie active disinformation campaigns). I do think that the ozone hole was in fact a more aprupt issue, perhaps that is why action was quicker. But also in that case the action required was less obtrusive in people’s lives, kind of like a “head duck” versus the “get out of the building” reaction global warming requires.

    But the stark contrast between north american attitudes and the rest of the world is very strong evidence that the most influential cause of apathy is propaganda as you suggest.

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