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.