One of the reasons that people don’t accept climate change is that it is set too far in the future and that people only respond to immediate threats. Even if it is too late, one hopes that direct experience of freak weather will jolt people and wake them up.
Well, that’s the theory, but I am not sure that humans work like that. People across Europe and the US and being directly confronted with the excessive summer temperatures predicted by the climate models. Yesterday was the hottest July day in Britain since records began in the mid 17th century. Temperatures on buses in the hottest parts of Britain hit 52C yesterday while the London Underground reached 47C, 20 degrees higher than the maximum temperature allowed for transporting cattle.
But people are not making the connections. Everyone I talk to is saying how ‘lovely’ it is. ‘What a lovely day’ they say or ‘bit hot today- won’t it be nice to have a good lie down in the shade with a cold drink’. The media- or at least the liberally inclined parts of it- are talking about climate change, but the overall message undermines any sense of public concern.
All of the images in the newspapers are arty shots of bikini clad swimmers, people in deckchairs or, bizarrely, lions eating giant ice lollies made of blood. The evening news took us to a “local pub” to meet the people “celebrating”- yes they did use that word- the heatwave. And they they were, all ruddy faced and pickled giving a good cheer for the year long beach party to come. And then we went over to some boring and ambivalent scientist who told us that the “evidence suggested” that this “may” be due to climate change. Boring! Bring back the babes in bikinis!
People take their cues from the people and images around them. I think of all those fantastically happy people cheering Hitler’s arrival in Vienna during the Anschluss. How easy it is to be swept along by the crowd. How hard it is to stand apart.
We can choose how to respond, but at present we are actively conspiring to celebrate this catastrophe.