There is plenty of research out there to show that humans are very bad at assessing risk. We worry more about shark attacks (which are extremely rare), for example, than we do about car crashes (which are extremely common). One of the main reasons offered for this is the extent to which we feel we have control over the situation (e.g., as a driver of a car instead of a swimmer in the sea). Whatever the reason, it is highly irrational (which is to say it is highly human).
Climate change is also something that we have difficulty assessing, partly because the effects are perceived to be global (rather than local) and distant (in spite of all the evidence to the contrary). We are much more sensitive to threats that we feel are direct and immediate, rather than indirect and delayed. That is why concern about climate change dropped during the financial crisis and subsequent recession – essentially, people had more immediate and personal concerns to worry about. According to the article in the url below, however, that is now changing as the economy begins to recover:
"About 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either a 'very serious' or 'somewhat serious' problem, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, up from 63 percent in 2010. The level of concern has still not returned to that of a decade ago; in 2006, 79 percent of adults called global warming serious. … Other polls, including by Gallup and The New York Times and Stanford University, have similarly shown that concern about climate change fell sometime after 2008 and has since risen."
As the Catholic Church inserts itself more directly into the debate with the publication of the Pope's encyclical on the issue (Laudato Si) in an attempt to influence the negotiations for a global climate accord in Paris next month, it will be interesting to see how the political establishment responds. At least the topic is moving marginally closer to center stage, with more people willing to talk about the science (rather than their beliefs) to make the argument that this is an issue for this generation, not the next:
"The percentage of Americans who agree with the scientific consensus — that global warming is occurring and caused by human activity — has also bounced back in the last few years. Sixty-eight percent of Americans also say there is 'solid evidence of warming,' up from 57 percent in 2009."
Have a good weekend.
David Chandler & Bill Werther
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders, Globalization, and Sustainable Value Creation (3e)
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://www.sagepub.com/chandler3e/
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: http://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
Americans' Concern Over Climate Change Is Again on the Rise
By David Leonhardt
June 17, 2015
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final