Global Warming Preparedness

What kind of a proposal would avoid triggering the psychological barriers described above? Looking over the territory we have just covered, we can infer that it makes sense to define the problem in a particular way:

• It does not make people feel guilty.

• It does not threaten their self-image.

• It involves abrupt changes perceivable by the senses (that is, they are readily distinguishable, discrete events).

• It is easy to represent by a mental image.

• It is not perceived as requiring tremendous sacrifices and other unpleasant consequences.

• It does not require absolute certainty.

• It gives people a greater sense of control.

Is such a proposal possible? We believe it is. Our proposal for global warming preparedness recasts global warming in terms of preparation for natural disasters and extreme weather. It fulfills each of the criteria listed above and is the best chance we have for increasing the salience of climate change in the mind of the public.

Natural disasters are something with which we are all familiar and thus can easily imagine. They are dramatic and easily visualized. Most of us no longer believe that anybody is to blame for them. They allow us to respond to well-defined problems and focus on clear and workable solutions. Preparing for them well and responding to them effectively enhances one's self-image rather than threatening it.

Most important is that natural disasters are inherently unpredictable. We prepare for them because they are uncertain, not because they are certain. We don't know when, where, how, or even whether they will strike. Their uncertainty effectively short-circuits the endless back-and-forth debates about whether global warming is being caused by humans and whether it will create overwhelming disasters. No longer would a handful of scientists who have doubts about global warming be available as trump cards for front groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

To be sure, some opponents of action on global warming will continue to sanguinely argue that no action is necessary because when the time comes we will simply adapt to the changing climate. Global warming preparedness, however, turns those arguments on their head by positing that the time to adapt is now and that rather than passively "adapting," we should actively "prepare."

By divorcing the question of human contribution from the reality and immediacy of the threat, one is able to advocate reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere regardless of whether one believes that climate change is 100 percent human caused. In this context, it is far more likely people will believe that if we are contributing to global warming, no matter whether it is in whole or in part, we should do what we can to prevent the problem from worsening.

Continue reading here: Irrationality Wants to Be Your Friend

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