The report states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” Pretty strong stuff. But will we do anything about it? Not if we look at our past history.
The IPCC was established in 1988 with it’s first report coming out in 1990. During the IPCC’s lifetime the earth’s surface has become successively warmer, with the past three decades being hotter than any preceding decade since 1850. During those three decades (and despite four previous IPCC reports) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from under 340 ppm (parts per million) to over 380 ppm.
That doesn’t augur well for us acting. So, why don’t we?
Clive Hamilton (the author of Affluenza) has also pondered this question. In his 2010 book, Requiem For A Species1, Hamilton outlines a number of reasons for the inaction encompassed within two broad themes – denial or avoidance.
Inaction by denial includes:
- Uncomfortableness. We will tend to dismiss evidence that conflicts with our beliefs or world view. In doing so we will seek out information that accords with our view and/or we will associate only with people who think like us.
- Threats to our identity. Climate change,may threaten our sense that we are the “masters of our destiny” and so we deny it’s reality.
- Political persuasion (Part 1). Studies in the US have indicated that those with more conservative political allegiances are more likely to deny that climate change is a reality.
- Political persuasion (Part 2). Even some on the “far left” of the traditional political spectrum dismiss climate change because climate change is viewed as the cause of “elitist middle-class do-gooders.”
- Religion. Some forms of fundamentalist religious views have an anti-scientific stance, as a consequence of which it becomes easy to deny the veracity of climate change.
Amongst the ploys of avoidance, the following are common examples:
- Values. It has been shown that our we are able to invoke our “higher values” when it comes to planning for action into the far future, yet when making decisions for the near future, these higher values are subsumed by more immediate concerns such as “the economy.”
- Distraction. When faced with unpalatable reality we sometimes prefer to switch-off and find something more agreeable to watch, read or engage in. Television, computer games and the like are classic examples.
- Wishful thinking. In Australia and New Zealand there is a common saying that “she’ll be right, mate”, meaning that if we ignore something things will turn out OK in the end.
- Shifting the blame. With the growth in the emissions of China and India in the past decade or so it becomes very easy to avoid our own responsibilities by suggesting that until those countries act then we shall carry on as before.
- Unrealistic optimism. Similar to “wishful thinking” this is a case of blind faith and a belief that “it can’t happen to me.”
- Green consumerism. Although we all must think about our purchasing options, green consumption can sometimes be an avoidance as we can become vain in thinking that “I am doing my bit.” Yet, the very process of over-consumption is at the heart of the drivers of climate change.
“The danger of green consumerism is that it transfers responsibility from the corporations mostly accountable for the pollution, and the governments that should be restraining them, onto the shoulders of private consumers.”If abating the heating of the planet requires collective effort then those that have some skill and knowledge of promoting that are Community Development workers and activists. Perhaps more than any other time in it’s history, the whole planet now needs the skills of community development workers, not just individual communities.
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1. Hamilton, Clive. Requiem For A Species: Why we resist the truth about Climate Change, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, Australia, 2010.