Sunday, May 13, 2018

Katherine Hayhoe Thinks About Why and Why Not

If you care about the effort to limit climate change, you probably already know about Katherine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Christian University. She's one of the most prominent people trying to connect her fellow Christians with climate science.

She recently created a tweet storm that's worth quoting in full on all the reasons climate change is so hard to avert.

Why is it so hard to wean ourselves off fossil fuels in time to prevent serious impacts from climate change? It’d be nice if there were just one reason: but there isn’t. There are political, economic, cultural, social, psychological, even physiological barriers.

First, some economic reasons. Fossil fuels are woven through our entire global economy, and 7 out of 10 of the richest corporations in the world depend intimately on fossil fuels for their success, and so have every reason to preserve the status quo. [with link to a list]

Then, political reasons. Money = campaign donations = power. Plus, Republicans oppose “big gov” and climate solutions are typically presented as such. Then there's Citizens United, gerrymandering, many other factors that also play a role in preventing change.

Now some cultural reasons. Climate solutions require acting together, yet culturally the U.S. is one of the most independent countries in the world. Pointy-headed scientists are the messengers; it's no accident this book [Anti-Intellectualism in America by Richard Hofstadter] won the Pulitzer in 196.

More cultural reasons. There is an active disinformation campaign that takes advantage of long-standing cultural divides to paint it as a liberal/anti-christian issue or simply to sow uncertainty — which is just as effective in delaying action.

Then there’s the fact that we as humans are pretty good at immediate threats, but generally terrible at long-term challenges. We already don't save enough to retire or eat what we should. What’s more long-term than climate change?!

Can’t forget emotional reasons: guilt, that nearly every action we take contributes to the problem; anxiety, knowing that even if we do our best, we can’t fix it by ourselves; insecurity + tribalism — we want to belong, so we reflect the opinions of those around us.

False balance in the media, the politicization of religion, the fact that our brains remember weather but not climate, the fact that change is harder than no change...the barriers go on and on.

When you look at it that way, really it's a miracle we've gotten as far as we have!

What's missing from this list? And — more importantly — what do you think are the most important counter-balances to these barriers?

Oops — can't miss the fact that, until recently, the most obvious negative impacts were not occurring where most people live ... but this is changing!

This is why "just tell them the scientific facts" will not change too many minds; "lack of scientific understanding" did not even make this list!

Bottom line: we need to connect the dots between climate change + what people already care about.
All of that and more, but it's good to have her thoughts on this for reference.

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