In the summer of 2019, the world received more damning reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They said we have approximately twelve years to limit a climate change catastrophe. Note, this isn’t the time needed to prevent a catastrophe. That ship has unfortunately sailed, it’s going to happen, despite widespread knowledge of the devastation human-driven climate change could cause for decades.
Yet despite the massive consensus (97% of climate scientists) that humans are causing climate change, people continue to label the phenomenon ‘a hoax’. Why is this?
The big hoax
Despite the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed scientists, all masters in their field, telling us about these pressing issues against humanity, some still choose not to trust them. It begs the question, if we act on climate change, even if it is a hoax, the worst that can happen is we create a greener, less polluted, more beautiful world for future generations. Is that really so awful?
In contrast, if we ignore climate change throughout the next decade, the consequences will include further mass extinction, wide-scale health problems like cancer and respiratory issues, conflict, increasing natural disasters and human fatalities, refugee crises, and an uninhabitable environment, not to mention loss of livelihoods. It shouldn’t be a tough decision, yet for some, tackling climate change doesn’t reach the top of their agenda.
Why are we reluctant to tackle climate change?
There are many theories about why so many people will ignore scientific advice when it comes to climate change.
It could actually come down to human psychology. Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularised the term “black swans” in his book, The Black Swan. A black swan refers to an event that is highly improbable and unpredictable, but highly consequential particularly for investors. For example, the rise of the internet, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 9/11, or World War I.
In contrast, Michele Wucker coined the term “grey rhinos” to describe problems which are glaringly obvious, open for the world to see, yet wholeheartedly ignored until it’s too late. Examples include the 2008 financial crisis or climate change, extreme weather, and natural disasters.
We ignore grey rhinos because our brains are hard-wired to avoid threats. When something poses a threat to us, our instincts tell us to turn away. In business, in life, and in the real world. This may have been an evolutionary advantage as early humans, but today, the benefits aren’t as clear.
Another factor which lets grey rhinos get away from us is to do with our culture, society, and the people who surround us. The UK and the USA, for example, have very individualistic cultures where people think they must work alone. This makes us a lot less likely to take risks, to go out on a limb, and to accept fast-paced change.
Can one person make a difference?
If we feel like we don’t have control over grey rhinos, it can lead to feelings of helplessness and that you alone are not enough to make a change. But just as in a democratic vote, this simply isn’t true. The more of us that take risks and change the way we think about the world, the more that will follow.
Climate change is a grey rhino. But the beauty of grey rhinos is that we can see them clearly and we know how to solve them. All that is stopping us is fear and once we understand that, we can create huge change.
Impact is a platform designed to help you see what is in front of your business clearer than ever. Becoming more sustainable is more than improving the environment. It means monitoring your social, environmental, and economic impacts too, and with real-time data analysis, you’ll be able to measure the good your business does.