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Public Perception of Climate Change the Biggest Obstacle in Affecting Change

Climate Change 300x200 Public Perception of Climate Change the Biggest Obstacle in Affecting ChangeAccording to a 2007 MIT study, one of the most prevalent myths is that climate change is reversible.

The MIT study Understanding Public Complacency About Climate Change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter detailed the public perception of climate change. The MIT study purports that public attitudes about climate change are contradictory. Most people believe that while climate change does cause issues, sometimes major issues, intentional changes in greenhouse gas emissions can stabilize atmospheric GHG concentration.

RealClimate, a climate science website put together by climate scientists, has noted that an immediate reduction of 60% to 70% of global emissions is needed to hold the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 steady. Even with upwards of 70% reduction, there would still be an imbalance that would lead to 0.3 to 0.8 degrees Celsius warming during this century. This prediction assumes that there are no major jumps in carbon emissions.

Climate change is not unstoppable, but the climate change that has already occurred is not reversible, as many people believe. When considered in this light, it’s hard to believe anyone would be reluctant to take action, but it does happen, often through a combination of apathy and misinformation.

If CO2 concentrations peak below 450 ppm, the modest amount of CO2 we are likely to be able to remove from the atmosphere this century could take the earth below the danger zone, however CO2 concentrations may triple if emissions are not curbed immediately. Once emissions are so high, no practical strategy matters because it will not negate or lessen the impact of climate change on the earth.

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About the author

Leigh is a Senior Technical Communicator working in the energy sector in Dallas, Texas. Prior to her work in the energy industry, Leigh spent years specializing in life saving engineering projects for the US Department of Defense. In her spare time, Leigh pursues her passions of environmental awareness, vegan baking, dog rescue, and defending the place of art, literature, and music in a world that values science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Comments

10 comments
Joe Matthis
Joe Matthis

The reason you cant get people to fall for climate change is that people are just not as stupid as you might think. Oh they are plenty gullible and will go along to get along that's for sure. It doesn't matter how much you beat the drum and quote the findings of studies if one study shows that carbon levels were higher in the past without the influence of their SUV your wasting your time. Every study that states climate change should drop the word change and it may carry more weight. The fact is there are way to many factors involved to say for sure that man has a measurable influence on the direction of climate. Are we adding to the mix? Sure we are. However until you can stop volcanoes from erupting and the continents from moving and the moon from receding from the earth your just blowing smoke. The climate is in a constant state of change has been since the beginning. Climate change is a term given to an action taking place that's been happening forever, kinda like saying water is wet or global warming only happens during the day. The human race currently does not have enough influence in the grand scheme of things to halt or change the direction of climate change. Now with that being said does that mean climate change isn't real...far from it. We as a species need to learn to do things better, cleaner and more in tune with nature and perhaps telling people they are destroying the earth will do that to some degree. However raising their taxes will not accomplish this. That's right it's all about the money. Here's the proof the earth has been around for a long time and time is measured in geologic time scale not mans time table. Even if we are adding to the problem we've only been at it for a micro second in geologic time so I'm sorry you are just not that important in the big picture, you don't even have a seat at the table. My suggestion is to get over yourself and learn to prepare and adapt. If sea levels are going to rise due to a rise in temp over the next 100 years then move inland get to higher ground. But what do they do? They say we are going to try and hold the status quo which is neither feasible nor possible concerning the climate.

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@Joe Matthis So the increase of severe storms and extreme weather patterns in the last couple hundred years is just normal. The Industrial Revolution just happened to start about the same time. What a coincidence!

If human activity is basically a non-factor in our environment, then why bother cleaning up? The fact of the matter is that we do impact our environment, from trash on the street to the billions of tons of carbon dioxide that we're pumping into the atmosphere.

Great shotgun response, by the way.

Joe Matthis
Joe Matthis

@bnjroo Here is the problem I have with pointing the finger at man made climate change, everywhere you hear studies showing how much carbon is being put into our air and so forth but you never hear how much is taken out of the carbon cycle. To make a educated decision one must have at least two sides of a problem. The discussion is lop sided because you never see the other side, we must endeavor to to find balance with our world or carbon cycle. However we do not have all the facts. I suspect that if the truth were known it would show the cycle isn't that far out of balance and it would show that we are not in control of the climate. When you only hear one side and operate based upon slanted data then you are already deceived. Now I did not reach my conclusion simply by saying the other side was never presented because I have tried to find out how much carbon is removed from the cycle. Go look.

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@Joe Matthis @bnjroo I was thinking the same thing about electric vehicle battery technology. There seem to be a number of researchers working on different parts of the whole, anode, cathode, electrolyte and management. Can you imagine what would happen if they all got together in one room?

It'll never happen, because people are worried about patent infringement [pride or money] or commercialization [money] instead of the greater good. Every once in a while they make contact and something sparks. Seems to me that progress is more like falling in love than the result of a concerted effort.

Joe Matthis
Joe Matthis

@bnjroo That's why I like this site. I review constantly to see what the newest developments are, what direction things are going in order to improve our energy situation. Sometimes I'm a bit disappointed and other times I'm enlightened with the effort. I view this site as a storage of individual pieces to a larger picture or puzzle. Some pieces deal with one area of energy production and others deal with their respective topics. What I try to do is connect the dots so to speak. For example on this site there are many reports of different organizations who have come up with a way to increase the useful power of solar cells. What if all those efforts were combined? What if all the advances were combined? How much more efficient could the solar cell be? A collective effort is present but is mired by the human condition. Here's another example that keeps popping in my head, on Youtube there is a video of a person who took a water pump used it to drive a generator which was looped back to drive the water pump. With a single pulsed input the looped system seemed to sustain it's self for a time. The comments were the system was simply a flywheel application and maybe so but they missed the point I think. If the system sustained it's self for any amount of time under it's own power doing the same amount of work (pumping water) even if diminishing the amount of useful power in that one pulse has been multiplied.  

I guess the point is we haven't even come close tapping the latent energies that exist in our world. We are not even using what we have to it's potential. We are lazy and operate under a wish for instant satisfaction with no regard for the cost. The pieces are on the shelf for world changing solutions however assembly is required. 

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@Joe Matthis @bnjroo that's why we're here. Sharing ideas is the first step in getting anything done. We won't get anywhere in a world-wide slap-fest.

There are a lot of great ideas out there on increasing our efficiency. There may be no perfect solution, but it seems like some [people, governments, groups] are moving in the right direction.

Joe Matthis
Joe Matthis

@bnjroo Thank you for the conversation and the chance to express my point of view. I understand all to well the struggles we face trying to balance what we want with what we need and what we can actually have. That's life as we know it. I feel there are solutions to complex problems available now, however we as a species will have to mature before addressing them. We are not ready.....yet. 

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@Joe Matthis @bnjroo You're absolutely right, the data does seem to be skewed on one side of the equation. There is a lot more to it than you and I might ever discover. Still, moving to renewable energy and increasing our efficiency should be the obvious direction to go. On the other hand, changing over to cleaner energy sources also has its problems, just like you were saying with solar, hydro and wind. Rock and a hard place, indeed.

Joe Matthis
Joe Matthis

@bnjroo  Good observation however now you must look at all wood products that are currently in a point of sequestration (stored carbon not in the cycle) such as all the building products. Things like 2x4s and asphalt shingles and that kitchen table you eat breakfast at. Closet doors hardwood flooring the list goes on and on and the amount is billions and billions of stored carbon not currently in the cycle. Paper products in file cabinets, paper products in landfills represent sequestered carbon. You could even look at the death rate and how many coffins and bodies are buried after all we are all carbon based life forms. The log home I live in is sequestered carbon several tons there. Point is we are adding to the carbon cycle but we are also removing a lot of carbon also, so if the cycle is out of balance how much is it out of balance? How fast does the cycle react to increased CO2 (stimulating more plant growth sequestering more carbon). To only examine one side of the coin will always show your right and you can always predict the out come but it hardly represents the whole truth of the matter. I accept that climate warming is real, but in truth it's been warming since the last ice age and it seems just because we observe it we think we are the cause? You said storms have increased in the last 150 years but isn't it true also that thats when we started paying attention to storm data. It's much like the news about events, are things happening more or are we just paying attention more and the events were always happening.  That's climate change, global warming, El Nino, or whatever name you want to call it. Real science is based upon facts not hype and propaganda. Truth is we have enough clean energy sources to power the world over several times over. The problem is as a species we are lazy and we hinder our own ability to use these resources. Take wind turbines good source of power but some say they kill birds so no wind turbines, well how about hydro electric, no that stops the fish from swiming up stream and changes the eco system, so no hydro electric. So how about solar? Solar is just too expensive so no wide spread use to date. Look you just can't have it both ways. I've got solar panels on my house    ... and where they are a comfort in a back up situation the cost is extreme and the power produced is not ample to supply my needs at my desired comfort level. So we are between a rock and a hard place. We need a real solution in favor of our species if we are to achieve anything meaningful otherwise it's just a bunch of hype. Solutions are available but they just don't put money into the right pockets at this time so no solutions. 

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@Joe Matthis @bnjroo as far as i can tell, we're emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than we are taking out of it. fossil fuels are a major problem. the carbon sequestered these plants and animals were living and growing has been hidden underground for millennia, and now we're pulling it out of the ground and burning it, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere.

that got me thinking about the forest. in this video: http://youtu.be/5xQnFhIRR88 it is explained that a 60-90 year-old tree has the equivalent of 3 tons of carbon dioxide. If I'm correct in my math, a 35 mpg vehicle traveling the average 11,500mi annually will generate about 3.2 tons of carbon dioxide.

So, in one year that car has generated the same about of carbon dioxide that it took a single tree a minimum of sixty years to take from the atmosphere. Yes, I know there are nearly five trillion trees on the planet (disappearing fast as well), so I'm wondering if it's possible to calculate how much carbon they sequester annually and compare that to world carbon emissions.

i think in 2010 or 2011 the world surpassed one billion vehicles, and this doesn't include farm, mining, and construction vehicles, and there average fuel economy certainly isn't anywhere near 35mpg. probably less than 20mpg. then there's thousands of aircraft, military vehicles and power plants that generate carbon dioxide as well.

i'm not so sure that carbon emissions and sequestration is quite as balanced as you think it could be.

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