Is it true that we are about to enter a mini Ice Age? Could it be possible that climate change was all a hoax? Was it politically expedient for politicians to use climate scarmongering to get votes? Was it economically convenient for companies and governments to charge us for not being Green enough through taxes and surcharges? These are the arguments of James Delingpole in Watermelons: How Environmentalists Are Killing The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Children’s Future. According to Delingpole, the current doom and gloom scenarios fail to account for economic progress, and when “technology, human ingenuity and adaption” are factored in, the future looks bright for mankind.
The author is a blogger at the Telegraph who seems to make a living being controversial about whatever is in fashion. Topics of his previous books include Liberals and Obama. Delingpole, however, is not the only one making noise about a mini Ice Age being more likely than global warming. According to this Grand Maximum theory, the current solar maximum will create an Ice Age, which will lessen the impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere.
Delingole’s logic is flawed, however. If the mini Ice Age arrives, he contends that it will be proof that we have all been duped by self-serving governments and corporate interests. Under this scenario, we all become card carrying members of the Flat Earth Society. It will be a time of Grand Introspection as we ask ourselves how we bought into the global warming hysteria. The global warming scientists will look like quacks.
The fact of the matter is, if we are harming the enviornment through pollutant emissions, our commitment to greenhouse gas reductions should not change in the event a solar maximum provides a temporary global warming reprieve. But let’s say Delingpole is right and the mini Ice Age arrives. It is 2100 and the Grand Maximum has receded and the earth’s temperatures have indeed risen. The psychologists are psychoanalyzing the first half of the 21st century.
Human beings failed to overcome social and psychological barriers to global warming, and thus failed to take action on an individual level. Individuals believed that they experienced no immediate threat from rising temperatures and that change could be made later. Moreover, they felt that any efforts they exerted would have no measurable impact on global warming. As a result of a perceived lack of control on an individual level, there was a low level of collective action, or social capital. While governments implemented mechanisms to change behaviour and promote mitigation and adaptation strategies , they were not sufficient enough to raise the level of social capital.
To conclude, the cognitive and social biases that prevented individuals from engaging in the required conservation and adaptation strategies in the face of gloal warming included a low risk aversion (loss aversion), low social capital, a lack of self-efficacy and an optimism bias. The results of this study show that individuals in the 21st century did not act rationally, despite numerous books during this period pointing out this shortcoming. As Daniel Kahneman pointed out in the New York Times bestseller Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow (2011), the assumption of the 20th century that human beings are rational and their thinking normally sound was incorrect. Many biases in our thinking — or “errors to the design of the machinery of cognition” — influence decision making and create cognitive illusions. Therefore, in the 21st century, we found that human cognition was a limiting factor in the ability of individuals to adapt to scientific evidence on climate change.