The Conversation: “Coronavirus response proves the world can act on climate change”

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to The Conversation, we listen to disease experts but ignore climate experts, even though they are both groups of experts, because we have an instinctive fear of disease.

Coronavirus response proves the world can act on climate change

Eric Galbraith Professor of Earth System Science, McGill University
Ross Otto Assistant Professor of Psychology, McGill University

The alarms for both COVID-19 and climate change were sounded by experts, well in advance of visible crises. It is easy to forget, but at the time of this writing, the total deaths from COVID-19 are less than 9,000 — it is the terrifying computer model predictions of much larger numbers that have alerted governments to the need for swift action, despite the disruption this is causing to everyday life.

Yet computer models of climate change also predict a steady march of increasing deaths, surpassing 250,000 people per year within two decades from now. 

As scientists who have studied climate change and the psychology of decision-making, we find ourselves asking: Why do the government responses to COVID-19 and climate change — which both require making difficult decisions to avert future disasters — differ so dramatically? We suggest four important reasons.

Instinctive fear

First, COVID-19 is deadly in a way that is frightening on an instinctive, personal level. People react strongly to mortal threats, and although the virus appears to have much lower mortality for otherwise healthy people under 60, those statistics do not quell universal personal safety fears.

Read more:

There are a few details the professors left out, like that disease epidemic models have a firm foundation of observational evidence. Climate predictions of imminent catastrophe not so much.

via Watts Up With That?

March 20, 2020 at 12:07AM

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