Is the Optimism Bias to Blame for Inaction on Climate Change?

Climate change optimism bias

Credit: New York Times

The strong support for sustainable policies is impressive considering we still haven’t fully grasped the severity of our situation, or what it means for us personally. The maps below highlight a key misunderstanding. We think climate change is more likely to affect other people than it is to affect us personally. This is likely due to an optimism bias that 80% of us have (the same cognitive bias that explains why 90% of people think they’re better than average drivers).

58% of adults think global warming will harm others in the US, yet only 42% think it will harm them personally. For people to grasp the true weight of this issue, and thus treat it accordingly, it’s important to understand that climate change will, to varying degrees, affect everyone in the near future.

This is important because we need to act quickly. If more people understood that they will be personally affected by climate change, they would care about it a lot more and respond to it accordingly.


Read other content from the “Alarming” section or see all sections of the What on EARTH?! sustainability newsletter.

This post was originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

What others are saying:

“Strikes the perfect balance between smart, understandable, funny, and compelling.” – Jackie

<iframe src="" width="480" height="320" style="border:1px solid #EEE; background:white;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Share This