Climate Change: Grasping the Ethereal

This is the second part of our series about climate change; last time, we discussed the very real, very scary effects of climate change on natural disasters. That brings us into today’s topic pretty nicely, because it’s the kind of thing that disaster movies like “Day After Tomorrow” portray; some kind of apocalyptic event that makes you grip your seat in terror. Climate change doesn’t feel disastrous; it feels like something that’s always on a distant horizon, never actually happening. It feels ethereal, and that can make it hard to quantify in a way that allows our psyche to properly grasp it.

Human minds are drawn to the tangible; what we can imagine visually, manipulate physically, quantify. We have a hard time grasping concepts like infinity because, well, how do you imagine something endless? Climate change has a feeling of intangibility about it; it’s a series of slow-moving processes that will culminate in a variety of effects that we probably don’t even fully understand yet; you also need to understand a lot of science on a pretty deep level to truly grasp what’s happening. This all makes climate change somewhat easy to deny; when we don’t understand a problem, it’s much easier to claim it’s not there.

In the same way, if we don’t like the solution to a problem, it’s easier to deny its existence. Dealing with climate change on a global scale requires a lot of painful policy decisions, including carbon taxes, banning certain carbon emissions, and more. Some folks feel like this means a loss of jobs, tax-revenue and more; others feel like it means more taxes on people who can’t afford the taxes they already pay. In an interesting twist of fate, many of the same people who don’t want the government to impose legislation to halt emissions are the same people who buy solar panels; libertarians who want independence from overbearing governments. I’m not proposing that government intervention is the best way to reduce climate change; while that’s my personal belief, it’s a long debate that rational people can disagree on. Climate change is real, though, and pretending the problem doesn’t exist won’t make it go away.

Another psychological barrier we face is the Tragedy of the Commons. You may have heard this particular thought experiment: a collective grazing area has been plagued by drought. The pastures need time to grow; if cows are allowed to eat the pasture, it will die – one individual cow, however, will make almost no difference to the pasture’s revitalization. Before going to market, a farmer decides to let his cow out to graze; after all, the cow needs the food, and one cow will make no difference. When the farmer returns, the whole pasture is dead; every farmer made the same decision.

The moral of that story is that we might think our individual actions make no difference, but when we collectively think that way, we all take actions that affect the group adversely. It’s the same as thinking “one vote doesn’t count”; if everyone thought that way, no one would vote. Taking action against climate change is the same; it’s a fallacy to think your choices don’t make a difference. We offer Winnipeg solar solutions to help you make climate conscious choices, while lowering your energy bill. It’s a good deal for everyone; we hope to hear from you soon.