How Anxiety Around Climate Change Block Us From Taking Action

While most scientists agree that we haven’t yet reached the point of no return on climate change, we’re getting alarmingly close.

The warnings have been issued, and the message is loud and clear: Our individual and collective inaction may lead to unimaginable consequences. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cautioned that without urgent action on climate change, we face a “very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” while Greenpeace estimates that greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced by 2020 if we are to avoid “runaway” climate change.

World leaders are meeting in Paris this month at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in an attempt to chart a new course of action.

Though efforts are being made, there is no doubt that we should have acted earlier, given the magnitude of the threats. So why has it taken us so long — and why do governments, corporations and individuals still struggle to take meaningful action?

Well… it’s complicated.

On the political and economic level, there are many barriers to meaningful action — most notably the fact that there is no simple solution. Any real action would require dramatic shifts in our energy production and consumption — a difficult feat in an economy focused on short-term gains over long-term concerns, particularly when policymakers still disagree about the existence and magnitude of the problem.

This political inertia — as well as our individual inaction — has deep psychological roots.

“We see the horizon as a distant place, perhaps far enough away that we need not engage our attention with it directly and immediately,” Al Gore said during a recent interview for Jared Leto’s video series “Beyond the Horizon.” “But the horizon —> Read More