Why Don’t More People Care About Climate Change?

Today, one of the primary focuses of work on climate change has less to do with conservation and more to do with the human heart. The truth is: people know the facts about climate change — or they’re starting to — but they just don’t care that much.

Research into the psychology of risk perception clearly demonstrates that simply knowing about potential danger, no matter how monumental, is likely to elicit only indifference if it’s too abstract. A distant, impersonal threat just isn’t scary enough; whereas, confronting an immediate threat — say, a hungry tiger for example — would kick you into action. Right now, climate change doesn’t feel “it could ruin my life, if not kill me” personal.

I mean, let’s be real: can you name a single way that climate change will seriously and negatively impact you — you, personally — in the next ten years? You probably can’t. Most people, even the most ardent of believers, can’t.

So, let me ask you this: do you feel that same sort of blasé attitude bubbling up within you? Does climate change feel like a five-years-from-now problem? A decade-from now problem? A generation-from-now problem? You’re not alone.

But here’s the thing: you and I both live on streets in neighborhoods and communities — not in the rainforest. We both care about the weather. We both want our food systems to stay healthy. We both want to keep our homes flood free, but keep our access to clean drinking water. Buying into the myths that “climate change is someone else’s problem,” or “climate change won’t affect me” puts these beautiful things at risk. And the reality is, climate change is already affecting us. This is not tomorrow’s problem.

Here are just a few of the ways climate change is worth your immediate attention.

Eastern white cedars - Photo by Mike Dembeck

Extreme weather events are coming to your front door.

Extreme weather events like tornadoes, hurricanes and widespread forest fires are becoming more common. In fact, the intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes have all increased just since the 1980s. Tidal floods have also increased tenfold in several US coastal cities since the 1960s.

It’s getting hotter — way hotter.

Average annual temperatures in the United States have already increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit between 1901 and 2016. Cities are bearing the brunt of this, experiencing an increase in daytime temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This is especially true in the Eastern and Southeastern United States.

Rainfall is more aggressive.

Rainfall in the Midwest, and the Northern and Southern Plains is increasing significantly, but much of the West, Southwest and Southeast is getting drier, causing serious droughts. Heavy rainfall in the former areas is becoming more frequent, causing deadly flash floods and nutrient runoff, which affects water quality and is shutting down fisheries.

Sea levels are rising.

So far, the global sea level has already risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began back in 1880. Scientists project that it will rise an additional 4 feet by 2100. That’s just around the corner! On a similar note, the arctic is likely to be completely ice free in summer before the middle of this century.

But you probably know this. Here are some even more specific ways climate change is affecting your daily life.

polar bear on turquiose ice

Beer is suffering.

First, many breweries are encountering shortages of fresh, clean water for brewing. Second, heavy rains in Australia and drought in England have damaged barley crops and hops crops. Your coffee supply is experiencing the same issues with production.

Grocery prices are spiking.

Climate change is affecting global agricultural supply. Extreme weather events area already severely damaging the food supply of African and Central America, causing civil unrest. Why? Staples of daily life are suddenly unaffordable.

ThinkstockPhotos-86541117

Many homeowners can no longer insure their homes.

Faced with several rounds of losses due to severe storms, many insurers have been drastically altering their underwriting of homeowner policies. Premiums for those who live in South Carolina or Florida, for example, have skyrocketed.

Our lakes and forests are disappearing.

Vast swaths of pine forest have been devastated by bark beetles and forest fires, thanks to rising global temperatures, and lakebeds across the United States are drying up. One third of the world’s major lakes and rivers are drying up, affecting water supplies for more than 3 billion people.

Now that’s personal.

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66 comments

Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago

Because a handful of Americans think they know more than all of the world's scientists.

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 2 months ago

many thanks

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Chad Anderson
Chad A3 months ago

Thank you.

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Noted

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

No clue

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 3 months ago

humans are stupid...

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Elisabeth T
Elisabeth T3 months ago

Very sad situation. Thanks for sharing.

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen3 months ago

well when we are all dead and gone because of what we have done, the last person on earth will probably still be denying climate change. What I don't understand is why people are not trying to protect this planet so that their children and grandchildren have a place to live. People live with the their heads in the sand, They think that nothing will ever change. Lets just keep having kids and destroying the planet...its OK!.

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Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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John W
John W3 months ago

Thanks

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