According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of American adults now believe that climate change is mostly caused by human activity. The vast majority of us think that global warming will negatively affect the future of the planet. And yet, only 36 percent of us report caring a great deal about the issue, and only 20 percent say they make an effort to always live in a way that protects the environment.
Every day, different theories arise as to why people who believe that human behavior causes climate change aren't more eager to shift their own practices. Last month on his podcast, plant-based Ironman Rich Roll likened human behavior to a black box, saying that it's difficult for us to change habits we've been entrenched in our whole lives. In a recent interview with mindbodygreen, National Geographic explorer David Gruber theorized that our inaction results from the fact that we inherently don't want to accept and react to bad news unless we absolutely have to.
So in the end, what's to blame? Is it routine, complacency, or a lack of understanding that's keeping us from more meaningful change? According to one of the most comprehensive studies on the question, it all comes down to our psychology.
The 2008 analysis Psychology & Global Climate Change used established knowledge on psychological processes to explore what's keeping us from taking more aggressive action, and its authors identified a variety of mental barriers. Considering how much the climate discussion has changed in the nine years since the study's publication, we asked the brains behind the study for a status update on the drivers of inaction and how we can overcome them. Here's what they had to say: