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Behavioural Change is Crucial to Solving Climate Change

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

By Jamie Li
January 7, 2022
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST

[Photo: Dot to Dot Game]


Is this situation familiar? You stare at your phone, scrolling through headlines about the

damaging effects of climate change. A feeling of hopelessness envelopes you; staying in bed

sounds better than confronting the horrors of rising temperatures. Why are our reactions to global warming often despondency and apathy? This article will delve into the psychological barriers such as the temporal and geographical barriers while discussing solutions such as changing communication and personal mindsets. While it is easy to sink into despair when tackling climate change, one must believe that an individual can make a difference or else nothing will improve.


One of the psychological barriers is the temporal barrier, which addresses the issue of

imagining short versus long term solutions. Our actions, whether contributing or combating

climate change, will affect the next generation. If we take action now, we will not see that future

benefit, all while solutions are costing us more time and money in the present. Even though long

term solutions are crucial to combating global warming, the lack of short term benefits creates

difficulty in implementing them.


Not only do humans have trouble with thinking long-term, but humans also struggle with

properly imaging people across spaces. A study done by David Uzzel found that people

perceived climate change as more worrying at greater distances, which indicates people are

concerned with environmental issues at the international level rather than the local level. The

geographical barrier distances people from climate change; they believe in the magnitude of

global warming but feel it will not affect them. Therefore, the geographical barrier is the struggle

of imagining global warming across distances.


After covering the psychological barriers that lead to apathy, next, some solutions are changing communication and personal mindsets. Communication is key to fighting numbness, increasing awareness and action. Climate communication should be a combination of bottom-up communication, such as fostering green behaviour in communities and top-down communication, such as regulations that force lowered emissions. Moreover, climate communication needs certainty. A study performed by Budescu, Broomell, & Por suggests that uncertain language in the IPCC leads to errors in communication and imprecision. Improving

aspects of communication tackles apathy towards climate change.


Another solution to despondency regarding climate change is a shift in mindset. As

climate change is rooted in human behaviour, the solution lies in changing human behaviour.

Individuals and communities impact treaties, regulations, technology and policy. Therefore,

individuals have a meaningful effect on global warming. However, one must believe that their

actions can make a difference to impact climate change. Ultimately, to fight apathy and numbness one must accept their capability to impact climate change then take action, even when it feels impossible.


Becoming apathetic when thinking of climate change is normal, but one must believe that

an individual can make a difference or else nothing will improve. Some psychological barriers

covered are temporal and geographical. Solutions to despondency towards global warming are

improved communication and personal mindsets. Next time you find yourself doom-scrolling

and thinking that nothing will slow down climate change, remember that continuing to spiral will

only make you more worried. Instead, hope, awareness and action should be at the forefront

when tackling global warming.


References


[1] Fleury-Bahi, Ghozlane. “Environmental risk: perception and target with local versus global

evaluation.” Psychological reports vol. 102,1 (2008): 185-93.doi:10.2466/pr0.102.1.185-193


[2] Milfront, T. L. “Global Warming, Climate Change and Human Psychology.” CSSN, 2010,

https://www.cssn.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/pub_climate.pdf.


[3] Uzzel, David. “The Psycho-Spatial Dimension of Global Environmental Problems.” Journal of

Environmental Psychology, vol. 20, no. 4, Dec. 2000, pp. 307–318.,

https://doi.org/10.1006/jevp.2000.0175.


[4] Williamson, K., et al. “Climate Change Needs Behavior Change.” Rare, 2018,

https://www.rare.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018-CCNBC-Report.pdf

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