Essay by Eric Worrall
According to Nature “Human behaviour is a neglected factor in climate science”.
Climate change and human behaviour
Nature Human Behaviour (2022)
Climate change is an immense challenge. Human behaviour is crucial in climate change mitigation, and in tackling the arising consequences. In this joint Focus issue between Nature Climate Change and Nature Human Behaviour, we take a closer look at the role of human behaviour in the climate crisis.
Human behaviour is a neglected factor in climate science
In the light of the empirical evidence for the role of human behaviour in climatic changes, it is curious that the ‘human factor’ has not always received much attention in key research areas, such as climate modelling. For a long time, climate models to predict global warming and emissions did not account for it. This oversight meant that predictions made by these models have differed greatly in their projected rise in temperatures8,9.
Human behaviour is complex and multidimensional, making it difficult — but crucial — to account for it in climate models. In a Review, Brian Beckage and colleagues thus look at existing social climate models and make recommendations for how these models can better embed human behaviour in their forecasting.
The psychology of climate change
The complexity of humans is also reflected in their psychology. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, research suggests that many people underestimate the effects of it, are sceptical of it or deny its existence altogether. In a Review, Matthew Hornsey and Stephan Lewandowsky look at the psychological origins of such beliefs, as well as the roles of think tanks and political affiliation.
To limit global warming to a minimum, system-level and individual-level behaviour change is necessary. Several pieces in this Focus discuss how such change can be facilitated.
…Read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-022-01490-9
There is a delightful 90s sitcom Frasier. The main character, Frasier Crane, has a radio talkback show, in which he tries to help people with psychological issues. A consistent theme of the sitcom is the contrast between the theoretical psychology knowledge of the neurotic lead character, and the down to earth practical skills of the people around him, such as his ex-police officer father, and his amoral showbiz agent, who always manages to ruthlessly manipulate Frasier and everyone around him into doing exactly what she wants.
I would love for psychologists to become more involved in climate modelling, particularly the kind of psychologists who think the research efforts of our old friend Stephan Lewandowsky add value to the process. In my opinion the resulting real life sitcom would ensure plenty of entertaining new material for WUWT to write about.