Fear Is Powering Global Eco Decisions – climate change news
Earlier this year, the world was shaken when Trump, president of the biggest economy of the world exited the Paris Climate Agreement, citing that it was a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty”. The implications of this decision were obvious in that the USA would not be bound to the Agreements’ duties to report regularly on their emission, update the UN on their implementation efforts towards sustainability, and most importantly avoided the need to contribute to the UN Green Climate Fund. The fund is geared towards aiding less developed countries adapt to climate change and advance clean energy, which may have lead Trump to accuse both China and India to benefit more from the Paris Agreement. Despite all these factors, one could say that Trump’s overconfidence stemmed from his corporate background could have affected his decision to opt-out of the agreement whilst the fear caused by environmental pollution concluded other nation’s decision to opt-in.
A study done in 2014 by the University of Groningen and VU University of Amsterdam, argue that the Protection Motivation Theory is able to predict pro-environmental behavior. Although the academic paper itself focused on the adoption of electric vehicles in the Netherlands, it did illustrate in its results that people were particularly more likely to adopt a more environmentally friendly automobile when the respondents perceived the negative consequences caused by conventional vehicles as more severe, and when they expected electric vehicles to decrease these consequences. Such a response encapsulated the three crucial mechanisms of a fear appeal. These three are:
(a) the magnitude of noxiousness of a depicted event;
(b) the probability of that event’s occurrence; and
(c) the efficacy of a protective response. Each of these communication variables initiates corresponding cognitive appraisal processes that mediate attitude change.
Taking each of these components in turn, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can see the increase of noxiousness for the consequences of climate change. Noxiousness can be easily defined as harm inflicted upon living things, the focus in this instance being humans. During the industrial revolution the paybacks from using for example, coal to power trains, factories and so on came from technological developments and an economic boom. People of that era were not ignorant of the effects of their actions but in fact had paid many academics to argue otherwise, essentially sinking the researchers who argued otherwise. They would never feel the effects of their decision, and prospered from industry doing well hence continued on without any regard.
In comparison, we can see and feel the changes that climate changes have done to the earth through the melting of the polar ice caps and the extreme weather conditions that have inflicted many parts of the world. The fear of a worsening condition had spurred many to look towards the stars to find another planet that humans may be able to inhabit. Others have tried to live more sustainably, and to use alternative methods to the traditional concrete jungle architecture. For instance, the Sustainable Living in South China Report exemplifies china’s aims towards promoting sustainable development and eco-living.
Provinces such as Hainan have incorporated promoting green buildings and energy conservation in buildings into the overall 12 year work plan, meeting its 50 green construction projects goal albeit the slightly longer time taken to do so. This is further spurred on by the recent decision made by the CPC Hainan Provincial Committee in Haikou to put forward a series of rules and regulations to mobilize its citizens to improve ecological protection awareness to build Hainan into a national example for ecological civilization construction. The decision is said to reduce and soon cancel the traditional GDP evaluation method to be replaced with a “Green GDP Index” to evaluate local officials’ performances, its target is to solve all major ecological problems in the area by 2020.
Moving on to the probability of an event’s occurrence, turning the attention to USA’s southern states, it has been reported that they will see an increase in deaths because of the hotter temperatures to be about 5 more deaths for every 100,000 people for each degree increase. Coastal damage will also affect the East coast of the country due to higher sea levels. Hurricane Irma being the worst example to date with the amount of devastation it had caused and its intensity creating a new category six tier. The fact that such a disaster followed fairly closely after hurricane harvey may suggest an increase in such disasters of the same power in the future.
The final component is difficult to adduce for a number of reasons. We see that the first two elements would produce general fear inducing responses but the third component implies that the move towards more sustainable living solves the problems illustrated by both factors. Hence, why many countries in the UN have joined the Paris Agreement. Trump’s response for not joining this Agreement may seem completely financial or even ego based as the general responses have seemingly unaffected him in the slightest. It is easy to accuse him of benefitting from business deals and the like by not implementing environmental restrictions and regulations at the standard the Paris Agreement sets but his decision may not even matter as much.
Once again using China as an example, its initiative in South China has done well for the province but the country still suffers 1.6 million deaths a year arising from pollution. New research that human pollution may make the situation better or worse for the chinese because the dust being blown in from the Gobi desert.Without the human made pollution, more sun would hit the land, causing slightly extreme difference in temperature between the land and sea, resulting in weaker wind speeds. This research would show how human made aerosols interact with the environment. But as Professor Lyn Russell said best “you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
A woman wearing a mask walk through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China,
This is not to say all is lost. Certainly, the situation may look bleak but one has to remember that China’s situation is fairly unique because of its placement near the Gobi desert. The overall movement towards more ecological living means that the situation at the very least cannot get any worse. The fear of the situation escalating is prevents the situation from pervading and would establish a new order amongst those of the younger generation to be more conscious of their actions and perhaps lower their carbon footprint by choosing to use public transport, or a more environmentally friendly vehicle.
In fact, a new research shows that we may have slightly more time to be able to right the wrong environmental choices that have been made in the past, although this would take years of persistence to resolve. Overall, the continual fear that the majority of the population feel towards climate change is well-founded and may be the best solution to combat any ignorance surrounding the effects of climate change, and Trump’s lack of fear may simply be just that; ignorance.
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