Show a thousand Americans a snapshot of any endangered fuzzy mammal, and there’s a good chance most of them will volunteer to donate money, time, or shelter to save the adorable little fuckers.
Global climate change threatens to turn the entire planet into giant spherical conflagration of hot gases and flames, yet we stare blankly at each other two appalachians trying to decide whether you could plant ketchup.
Why is this? Because we’re too dumb to understand what’s going on. Really!
Or at least that’s what MIT professor John Sterman says. He poked his head out of the ivory tower just long enough to get a sense of how much we know about what causes the global climate crisis. Turns out, even the smartest among us is woefully underinformed:
To test whether people understand these basic “bathtub dynamics,” Sterman and Booth Sweeney gave highly educated university students a nontechnical summary of information about climate change drawn from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the fact that carbon dioxide emissions are currently twice the rate of natural carbon dioxide removal.
Study participants were then asked to draw a simple graph showing what GHG emissions and removal rates would have to be to stabilize the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere by the year 2100.
Surprisingly, most people answered incorrectly — even graduate students with strong technical backgrounds. Most drew patterns in which emissions stopped growing but remained higher than removal — in effect, claiming that the water in the tub won’t rise even when the faucet pours more in than the drain removes.
This misunderstanding leads to complacency, according to Sterman, because people advocate bad policies when they don’t have a firm grasp of the issues.
I think the problem is that Professor Sterman quizzed a bunch of “highly educated university students” to determine their ability to grasp a metaphor about global warming — using bathtubs. Why not Victrola players or mimeograph machines or some other outdated technology? What college kids are filling up bathtubs with anything other than Natty Ice?
It’s like I always say — college kids are both stupid and dirty. And drunk.