Each year, trees add a new layer of growth between the older wood and the bark. The size of this layer, or tree ring as seen in cross-section, tells us about the speed of growth and reflects environmental conditions — such as temperature, moisture and even cloudiness — at the time of growth. Tree rings usually grow wider during warm periods and narrower during cold ones. Since some trees live for many centuries and, in some cases, for thousands of years, we can reconstruct temperature and other climate records dating back several hundred years, providing valuable information on how Earth’s climate looked in the past.
Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth. That is the equivalent of what we face now. Yet we dither taking no action to divert the asteroid even though the longer we wait the more difficult and expensive it becomes.
gamma-radio said: Do you know why people are in denial of climate change? I'm sure there's some political or financial reason, but I've never heard what it is.
To answer this question I need to address two different kind of problems.
In fact I think that politicians and journalists deny climate change for different reasons than common people.
There are numerouspowerfulcorporations that have interests in deny climate change and undermine the public understanding of this matter, mostly because a different energetic policy would mean more cost for them. Corporations tentacles move a lot of money and their ties are countless.
Politicians, especially conservatives ones, are advised to deny the existence of climate change. Newspapers publish articles in which, just to make an example, a bunch of non-climate scientists says that there’s no compelling scientific argument to take action against climate change.
The rhetoric of denier’s discourse is well known. It can be traced back to the arguments that climate science lack of scientific certainty, that there’s lack of scientific consensus, and that climate change is natural, instead of anthropogenic.
Then, there are the common people, like you and me. Why they don’t believe in climate change is a matter that concerns very complicated aspects of human psychology. There are a lot of studies about the psychology of risk perception that address this issue, for example.
Because climate change is so hard to detect from personal experience, it makes sense to leave this task to climate scientists. This makes climate change a phenomenon where people have to rely on scientific models and expert judgment, and/or on reports in the mass media, and where their own personal experience does not provide a trustworthy way to confirm the reports. For most people, their exposure to and experience of “climate change” has been almost entirely indirect and virtual, mediated by news coverage and film documentaries of events in distant regions (such as melting glaciers in Greenland) that describe these events in relation to climate change.
Take this in mind.
When people feel lack of knowledge or confusion, they are not motivated to an unbiased search for information, instead they are always more likely to trust someone or something that is familiar to them and “to avoid learning about the relevant issue when information is negative or when information valence is unknown” (Shepherd & Kay, 2012).
"Americans have long privately dismissed scientists and mathematicians as impractical and elitist, even while publicly paying lip service to them. One reason is that an abstract, scientific approach to problems and issues often leads to conclusions that are at odds with religious and cultural beliefs"
You can see why the role that politicians and media can have in shaping public understanding of climate change is so important. Denying the reality of climate change they say to people: “it’s all ok, don’t worry”.
“The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.”
OK, you have fought hard to deny or challenge the realities of climate change, perhaps because you are afraid of the policies that might have to be put in place; or are afraid of the possibilities of increased government intervention; or you don’t think it will be that bad; or you think it will be too expensive to do anything about; or you don’t understand the science; or you don’t trust scientists, including, by the way, every national academy of sciences and every professional scientific organization in the geosciences […] or whatever.
You may not think the expected consequences of climate change are bad enough to do anything, despite what researchers have been telling us for years about higher temperatures, worsening frequency and intensity of storms and droughts, rising sea levels, altered water quality and availability, growing health risks from pests and heat, and much more.
Fine. But you are dragging the rest of us, who still believe in science and think that things can and should be done quickly, down into what increasingly seems like a future hell. […]
It now appears that on top of all of the other potentially catastrophic, costly, damaging, or dangerous impacts of human-caused climate change, there is a very serious risk that it will threaten the production of chocolate.