Overcoming the Ostrich Effect
By Stephen Leahy
May 30 (IPS) – The vast majority of North Americans now declare that they want action on climate change. But whether people are truly willing to embrace “carbon-neutral” lifestyles — including giving up their gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles — remains an open question, say experts.
This article is part two of a three-part series published by IPS on natural capital and how future global prosperity and equity can be achieved through the preservation of ecosystems. See Part One: Like Enron, Earth Inc. Sliding Into Bankruptcy and Part Three: How to Kick-Start the 21st Century Eco-Economy
Scientists have made a strong case that the only way to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — floods, storms, wildfires, disease epidemics and sundry other unpleasant events — is by slashing greenhouse gas emissions a whopping 80 percent from the 1990 baseline by 2050. European policy-makers are already putting plans in place to meet that target.
North Americans, whose region is by far the worst polluter, are beginning to talk about reductions, but few understand the sweeping breadth of the changes needed to reach the 80 percent target.
“The American public’s awareness about global warming is extremely high, but that doesn’t mean very much,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Strategic Initiatives at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
“They are not convinced they need to make any changes or sacrifices in their lives,” Leiserowitz, a psychologist who has studied public reactions to climate change for nearly two decades, told IPS. “Most people think it is a very distant threat in terms of time and space.”
In other words, climate change will only have an impact on remote islands in the South Pacific, or poor countries in Africa, and only many years from now.
Even the devastation and death wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has not brought the potential impacts of a warmer world home to U.S. citizens, he said.
“The predominant image of climate change in most people’s minds is melting ice of Antarctica or the Arctic,” Leiserowitz said.
And while a few people worry about polar bears disappearing, most simply don’t see global warming as a significant threat, he said.
Leiserowitz’s view appears to conflict with a March 2007 poll by the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy that reported 83 percent of U.S. citizens consider global warming to be a “serious problem” — up from 70 percent in 2004. Most dramatically, 63 percent agreed that the United States “is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists”.
But Leiserowitz points out that public concern about global warming was also high in 2000, and then fell off the radar in 2001, notably after the 9/11 attacks.
“The current greening of Americans is broad across all sectors, but it is likely not deep,” he argued.
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2 thoughts on “Global Warming Is Real But I Didn’t Do It”
However, I think that if you really cared about the environment — you would change the color of your blog to GREEN.
In terms of those of visit this blog … the GREEN color would at least invoke some feelings of being closer to the environment. Just thinking about the COLOR green makes want to frolic in the grass and hug a tree.
I hope that didn’t sound too weird … (yeah, i know it was weird)
It was green until last week…maybe got tired or pissed off not sure which…but yeah green is my fave colour and I like to roll in the grass and climb trees too…Colour me green. Thanks for visiting, and stay in touch.