Climate River in Full Flood

Analysis by Stephen Leahy*

Apr 2 (IPS) – Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere can be compared to a flooding river, swamping low areas at first but inevitably bursting its banks.

But unlike normal seasonal flooding, humanity is largely responsible for the crisis by burning fossil fuels.

[ *This story is part two of a four-part examination of the psychological and behavioural changes needed to dial down the temperature on our global greenhouse. Part one: Climate Change Reshaping Civilization Part three: CLIMATE CHANGE: A Vision Worth Fighting For Part four: CLIMATE CHANGE: A Game With Too Many Free Riders ]

Today, a routine drive to the supermarket adds another fraction to the CO2 in the atmosphere, trapping a little more heat. And not just for today but the next 5,000 years. That is how long it takes before the carbon dioxide we release today is finally absorbed and safely tucked away. But for 5,000 years, that carbon will trap additional heat.

If climate change were a rising river near our street, we’d all be at the dikes, filling and carting sandbags with neighbours and strangers. We’d share our food, enjoy the camaraderie and remember forever our individual and collective effort with pride and satisfaction.

With a flooding river, the risk is visible and imminent, and people know what action they need to take, said Glynis Breakwell, a leading psychologist and vice-chancellor of the University of Bath in England who just published a book titled “The Psychology of Risk“.

Climate change is invisible or distant for most people. It’s melting ice in the Arctic — too bad for the polar bears, but it doesn’t affect me or my family.

And when people see experts apparently debating some aspect of climate change, they think there is uncertainty about the issue, resulting in a “nobody really knows” perception, Breakwell told IPS.

“That uncertainty produces resistance to behavioural changes,” she said. And so we sit on our hands, concerned perhaps about the rising river but unwilling to be first to race to the dikes.

There are reasons for this seeming paralysis, and some have little to do with science.

For the complete article please click on The Fault Lies Not in Our Cars but in Ourselves

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