Since 1950, humans have manufactured more goods than have ever existed in history. Our consumption of those goods – a highly inefficient use of our natural capital – has wrought a long list of environmental consequences. Staggering deforestation, check. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, check. Rising heat, sea level, and incidence of extreme weather events – check, check and check.
To environmental experts, such evidence is the proverbial writing on the wall: we must transition to a low-carbon economy, stat, in order to avoid irrevocable damage. As President Obama affirmed, upon accepting his party’s nomination for president, no less:
“Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.”
The president’s choice of words seemed a pointed response to Republican Senator James Inhofe, author of The Greatest Hoax and, it’s worth noting, recipient of $1.3m in campaign contributions from the oil and gas lobby.
Political maneuvering aside, why are Americans so disengaged from climate change – arguably, one of the most critical problems of our time?
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt; it’s also in places like North Carolina and perhaps even embedded into America’s cultural DNA. According to the latest study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the American public’s concern about global warming can be sorted into six categories, ranging from alarmed (13%) and concerned (26%), to cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive (that’s the other 61% of us). Among the many explanations offered for the knowledge gap are clashing worldviews, varying education levels, demographics, and the media’s handling of the issue. [Keep reading]