VSL:SCIENCE // How to sell the truth about global warming

Why don’t we do more to slow global warming? According to Columbia University psychologist Sabine Marx, it’s because we assess risk “experientially” rather than analytically, and unless we live in Greenland — or New Orleans — our day-to-day experience with climate change is too abstract to trigger the brain’s risk alarms.

According to this “risk-as-feeling” theory, the sight of a single grisly car accident does more to discourage speeding than a mountain of highway death statistics. Conversely, no amount of abstract climate-change data is likely to spur the masses to action. How should lawmakers and environmentalists proceed, then? Marx suggests that they focus on concrete, localized effects. And we say that an ecological equivalent to those old, scary school safety films may be a good place to start.

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