2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM
Paper No. 228-2
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM-8:50 AM

Dangerous Individual and Societal Inertia In the Face of Climate Change

CLAGUE, John J., Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6 Canada, jclague@sfu.ca

Despite the broad scientific consensus that humans are now responsible for dangerous climate change, most people do not take the problem seriously. In this talk, I explore some of the reasons why we are unwilling to change our behavior. Of perhaps greatest importance, most North Americans are not yet convinced that the problem is as serious as scientists claim. Their attitudes are reinforced by climate-change naysayers and by powerful self-interest groups and governments, which have done a good job defusing public concern about climate change while encouraging human behavior that is destructive to the environment. Second, carbon dioxide is odorless, invisible and occurs in the atmosphere in very small concentrations. How, people wonder, can small net increases in a benign gas cause harm? Third, unlike many global threats to humanity such as pandemics and nuclear war, climate changes slowly. Slow changes allow us believe that they can be reversed or that we can slowly adapt to them. Fourth, most people mistakenly believe that climate warming will have offsetting beneficial effects. Fifth, few people will make personal sacrifices until others do. Sixth, many people do not think that they make much of a difference; their contribution to the problem is insignificant and therefore excusable. Seventh, people in developed, and now even developing, countries have become addicted to oil and will not voluntarily kick the habit. Finally, the infrastructure of the developed world is deeply rooted in the oil economy and cannot be quickly or easily changed to one that is run on renewable energy. Fossil fuels will continue to underpin the economies of the developed world through the remainder of this century. Faced with institutionalized inertia in dealing with climate change, our species conceivably could be the first to destroy itself with full awareness of what it is doing.

2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM
General Information for this Meeting
Presentation Handout (.pdf format, 1350.0 kb)
Session No. 228
Global Warming Science: Implications for Geoscientists, Educators, and Policy Makers I
George R. Brown Convention Center: General Assembly Theater Hall B
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 315

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