Climate change is the gradual change of the Earth’s climate due to the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a result of the shift in equilibrium, the ecosystem is under threat, including the future of humanity. For instance, the average global temperatures have risen by 1.2˚C, with the most significant changes occurring in the 20th century (Climate Reality, 2016). It is suggested that surface temperatures conceal the accurate scale of the temperature because the ocean absorbs most of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases. Scientists have studied the past climate changes to comprehend the factors that cause the Earth to warm or cool. The primary force driving the phenomenon is that human beings use 85% of carbon energy sources (Climate Reality, 2016). Climate change and global warming have been stressed since the early 20th century, and different environmental organizations and governments have communicated several mitigation techniques. Structural fixes have been established and inaugurated; however, they have proved to not be fully efficient in solving climate change and ecological damage (Clayton et al., 2015). This is proven by the unwavering increase of the Earth’s temperatures all through the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Factors Leading to Climate Change
Research has revealed that psychological deficits play a crucial and significant role in mitigating anthropogenic causes (Gifford, 2011). Some of the psychological factors that have driven climate change include ignorance, judgmental discounting, and perceived behavioral control and self-efficacy (Gifford, 2011). Ignorance is a barrier to action by individuals disregarding that a problem exists and not recognizing what to do after becoming aware of the problem. It is suggested that even today, some people are still unaware of climate change, as an issue. Therefore, it is obvious to insinuate that this population segment will put little effort into ameliorating climate change. The second facet of ignorance is attributed to the lack of knowledge regarding the cause and extent of climate change. On the other hand, when it comes to judgmental discounting, some people undervalue the distant or future risks of climate change. This is influenced by ignorance to some certain extent. Lastly, perceived behavioral control and self-efficacy stem from the fact that some people believe that since climate change is a global phenomenon, there is little they can do as standalone individuals to solve the crisis. This is also referred to as the collective action problem.
Hope for the Future
Climate change has led to an increase in ocean water temperatures which has increased strong typhoons. Additionally, high temperatures have led to the melting of ice caps in the poles, which has led to more flooding. High temperatures have also resulted in droughts that exert pressure on the higher food chain members, which have had a spilling-over effect on the extinction of specific plant and animal species. Consequentially, the food and water shortages have caused people to migrate from affected areas to urbanized regions, leading to climate refugees. Questions are rising regarding the uncertainty of future climate projections, specifically in reference to the year 2050. It is a known fact that there will be some level of climate change, regardless of what happens with future carbon emissions.
The good news is that there is still hope for humankind to overwrite the present and create a new future. Al Gore, the founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, stated in a TED Talk, “The will to act is in itself a renewable resource” (Climate Reality, 2016). This was noted by people embracing the trend toward using renewable energy. For instance, the global use of wind and solar power has exceeded the predicted value for 2015 by 14.5% and 17%, respectively (Climate Research, 2016). Moreover, the purchase and use of lithium-ion batteries are reducing even though their prices are lower. A review of the past challenges has shown the resilience of humankind to combat various pressures. This evidenced how African Americans fought slavery and eventually championed eradicating it, with great reference to the moral perspective. Al Gore also stated that “We now have a moral challenge that is in the tradition of others that we have faced” (Climate Reality, 2016). When environmental organizations and governments conceive mitigative psychological approaches that integrate the moral aspect, people will probably become more environmentally conscious, leading to a better 2050.
Impact of Psychology on Mitigating Climate Change
Psychology has a great potential to assist minimize climate change and environmental damage, as the structural mitigative approaches have shown not to be fully effective. This is because it has been noted forces influencing decisions and behavior at the individual level have not been given nearly as much attention (Clayton et al., 2015). According to Clayton et al. (2015):
“Unless we examine how people perceive climate change, what factors influence mitigation and adaptation behaviors and how climate change will affect human well-being, we will be unable to respond effectively as a society.”
Psychology will be effective when its principles are integrated into the communication of the impact of climate change, associated risky behaviors that contribute to the phenomenon, and ways of combating it. It is essential to integrate individual capabilities, beliefs, values, social relationships and identities, and norms.
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Approaches to Mitigating Climate Change
People are starting to become aware that they need to embrace sustainability practices to protect the Earth for future generations. Everything we do in our daily lives impacts the planet, from the food we eat to the car we drive. It is through these small changes that we can help lessen the overall environmental impact. For instance, I usually avoid buying bottled water and opt for tap water. There are several drinking water fountains all around the state that the state government has stationed. These water sources are free and, most importantly, have passed the water quality test. Secondly, although I have a car, I avoid driving when going for short distances when performing errands. By driving less, I am reducing my carbon footprint, thereby reducing carbon emissions. Furthermore, to be more fuel-efficient, I use lead-free gas to minimize my carbon footprint.
On the other hand, there are several other things that I could do differently to improve my carbon footprint. For instance, I still purchase inorganically produced foods as the Fair Trade certified goods, and organic foods are more expensive. I could improve this by occasionally purchasing organic foods. There is also more potential to improve my fuel efficiency. This could be achieved by buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, since I am unable to do so at the moment, I will frequently be servicing my car to improve fuel consumption.
Collective Action and Solutions
Aside from independent individual efforts, people can also help mitigate climate change and environmental damage by participating in collective actions. A good example is the WE ACT for Environmental Justice organization. It has its offices in New York State, New York City, and Washington DC. WE ACT partners with educational institutions and other environmental rights institutes. The organization recommends informing and engaging residents to help them fully participate in issues that influence their health and community (WE ACT for Environmental Justice, 2021). Also, it fights for equal and robust environmental protections. Lastly, it recommends increasing environmental health by conducting evidenced-based campaigns and community-based participatory research.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice achieves its mission by aiming to build healthy and toxic-free communities. It works with several groups, including the JustGreen Partnership, to raise awareness of toxic chemicals, for example, phthalates and PFAS (WE ACT for Environmental Justice, 2021). Furthermore, through its Beauty Inside Out initiative, the organization has been developing policies and raising awareness about toxins in personal care products. The policies have revolved around disclosing the ingredients in period and children’s products. Secondly, WE ACT also fights for climate justice by raising awareness of the effects of wealth disparities among New Yorkers and the ability of people to prepare for the shocks associated with climate change, such as extreme weather (WE ACT for Environmental Justice, 2021). Thirdly, WE ACT advocates for the improvement of air quality for specific neighborhoods in New York, especially those with high poverty rates. This is because such environments have higher rates of emissions and pre-existing conditions that are more susceptible to air quality issues (WE ACT for Environmental Justice, 2021). Lastly, WE ACT has partnered with educational institutions to provide it Environmental Health and Justice Leadership Training that has produced over six cohorts of community leaders.
Climate change is a phenomenon that has been associated with several adverse effects interfering with the natural ecosystem. Therefore, people must realize that the efforts of every individual are essential to attain a sustainable future. There is still hope for vision 2050, and this can be achieved by embracing a “green” lifestyle. Alternatively, one can participate in collective actions by donating towards related causes, and registering for membership through which they can organize local campaigns and collaborate to create solutions for climate change.
Clayton, S., Devine-Wright, P., Stern, P. C., Whitmarsh, L., Carrico, A., Steg, L., Swim, J.,& Bonnes, M. (2015). Psychological research and global climate change. Nature Climate Change, 5, 640-646. Web.
Climate Reality. (2016). Al Gore: The case for optimism on climate change [Video]. YouTube.
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologists, 66(4), 290-302.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice. (2021). Areas of work. Web.