Why Americans Forget About Climate Change

Climate change has already begun impacting the world around us, and its consequences will only deepen with time, yet many Americans frustratingly ignore the issue and continue to live their routine daily lives without making climate-conscious decisions. In this article, Sami Grover, an environmental activist and co-creative director at The Change Creation, outlines 4 main reasons he suspects it has become so easy for people to push climate change out of their concerns. But really it comes down to “whether [we] want to fight, or simply accept defeat.”

Why Is Climate Change So Easy to Ignore?

Cross-post from treehugger

by Sami Grover

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Way back when the “climategate” conspiracy theories were swirling, I remember one particularly adamant denier commenting that he would believe in climate change once Al Gore and other environmentalists abandoned the luxuries of electricity and fossil fuels and really put their money where their mouths were.

After all, he argued, if the crisis was as bad as we were making it out to be, why hadn’t we all slashed our carbon footprints to zero to save the human race?

At the time, I thought it was a pretty lame shot.

Read The Science. Not the Lifestyle
I tend to base my reading of science on expert opinion and peer reviewed research—not the consumption habits of Democratic politicians or left leaning liberals. Yet there was a kernel of truth to our friend’s jibe.

Given that climate change is already killing people and the death toll is only set to rise, the efforts most of us make to cut back our meat consumption, drive the speed limit or bike to work a few days a week seem like pitiful responses to a global crisis of almost unimaginable proportions.

Steve Jurvetson / CC BY 2.0

Where Is the Outrage?

Similarly, while many of us may fire off the occasional email to a senator or turn up to a protest from time-to-time, you’d think that the prospect of humankind radically altering the ecosystem it depends on for survival would merit a little more protest than the national deficit, or a poor-taste blasphemous YouTube video for that matter.

With US elections looming, and with new research underlining how we are underestimating the costs of this crisis, I got to mulling this over again.

Why is climate change so damn easy to ignore? Why aren’t we all manning the barricades or searching for lifeboats 24/7? Why is it that I—who has chosen a career that allows me to fight this issue and changed a fair few lightbulbs in my time—find myself worrying at least as much about paying the bills or pleasing my latest clients as I do fretting over the future my children will inherit?

Takver / CC BY-SA 2.0

There are, I suspect, a few different things going on.

This Time It’s Personal. It Just Doesn’t Feel That Way.
Number one, as Simran Sethi argued in her recent TED talk, we just aren’t programmed to absorb and act on huge amounts of data or global-level threats. We act when things are brought closer to home and when they are made relevant to our daily lives.

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