Why People Don’t Act And How to Get Them to Care and Act

What if you owned property on the North Carolina coast and it will be completely underwater in 15 years!  No insurance company will insure the property as their projections are that this occurrence is a near certainty. 

The index for air quality (AQI) is a number used by government agencies to communicate how polluted the air currently is or will be. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects.  A level of 100 is considered high in the USA – China has experienced up to 700 on this index meaning the air will cause respiratory impacts even for healthy people, and serious or near fatal health impacts on people with lung or heart disease.

Do you think these events are random?  Do you think humans cannot take control of these situations?  I think they are related and we can do something about them.

This is the first of several blog posts on why people don’t act to mitigate and adapt to climate change and how to get people to care and act to offset human-caused climate impacts.  These blogs are based on scientific analyses of climate, large systems and how they change, as well as on human behavior and thinking.

People don’t act for various reasons.  I’ll cover human decision making and the decision errors humans make when faced with facts.  These errors are deviations from what would be rationale in a situation.  Couple these errors with biases and emotion and we can explain why people don’t act and don’t agree on facts.  I’ll add social biases, information deficits, and lack of incentives into the mix. 

I have two goals with this blog series:

  • Encourage people to slow down the ill effects of climate change
  • In doing so, lower the impact, especially on disadvantaged populations.

Climate change is a key societal challenge.  It is large, complex, and no one can be an expert on all dimensions.  No one approach will address the challenge. 

This blog series is designed to share multiple approaches to achieve these two goals. I’ll use an acronym, “CLIMATE” to suggest a suit of actions that I believe will make a difference in our world:

C:  Change processes and ways to address the collective action challenge.

L:  Legal, public policy.  I’ll discuss my views on what public policy will have the most impact.

I:  Information Disclosure.  This approach advocates for pricing natural capital to make it visible; mandatory disclosures and one report for public companies.

M:  Motivation and Incentives:  This area includes use of the capital markets and various ways to consider financial, social, and environmental outcomes.

A:  Affiliate.  We can create social capital and smart networks such as communities of practices to address important issues in our society and environment;

T:  Technology and Human-Centered Design.  We need new ways of living.

How do we decide on which technologies we should use and how to increase the rate of technology adoption?  How can we design our world for better social and environmental outcomes?

E:  Education and capacity building.  I’ll suggest ways to educate the public and public officials so that they take action.

This model encapsulates the major actions we can take to address the two climate action goals.  Stay tuned for future blogs for more details on why people don’t act and how to get them to act using the CLIMATE model.


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