The book Scienceblind is about the intuitive theories we have about the world, why they're often wrong, and why we sometimes hold on to them despite overwhelming scientific evidence.
You might imagine I headed straight for the climate change chapter. Actually, I read the introduction first. But then straight to Chapter 7.
Climate and weatherTurns out that we really do confuse weather and climate. In surveys done on hot days, people are far more likely to agree that climate change is happening.
Should one day's weather in one tiny speck of the planet really change our mind about whether the entire planet is warming year after year, decade after decade? Probably not. But it does.
What can we feel?The thing about intuitive theories is that they are based on what we perceive. We can't perceive this month's global average temperature and compare it to similar months over the last 3 decades. We sense today's temperature - right here, right now. So that's the data we use. Not very scientific.
Another thing we perceive is that serious climate change must lead to serious behavioural changes. The more fearful we are of such changes the more we are inclined to deny that climate change exists, or deny that it is serious.
So what's the solutionOften people don't know what it is they a rejecting. A study in which people were given the following description were found to be more accepting of global warming.
Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowly - raising Earth’s temperature.
A second solution is to inform people that 97% of scientists agree that human carbon emissions are causing climate change. People tend to think this figure is around 60-70%.
Finding out that the science community is practically unanimous resulted in people being more accepting of the reality of climate change and also more willing to take action.
We use the phrase "plenty more fish in the sea" to console someone on a missed opportunity. In coming years there'll be more plastic than fish in the oceans. We may need to update the expression for our polluted world.
How did it get to this?How did we get enough plastic in ocean to outnumber all the fish? The numbers tell the story. Globally we buy a million plastic bottles a minute. Each year we use 5 trillion plastic bags and millions of tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean. The average Australian generates 107 kg of plastic pollution a year. Only 14% of this is recycled. The rest ends up in landfill or the ocean where it takes around 100 years to degrade.
Why does this matter?100,000 sea creatures are killed by plastics each year. Birds that eat floating plastic, thinking it's food, have been found dead with hundred of pieces of plastic filling their stomach. It is also a problem for humans as we eat the fish that eat the tiny pieces of plastic.
A Bottle's Odyssey - YouTube
What can we do?Here in Australia we have an initiative called Plastic Free July. For one month, or for the year, you can pledge to avoid the 4 main types of disposable plastic - bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups. We can upgrade to re-usable containers, and use the sites Responsible Cafes and Trashless Takeaway to identify business that accept reusable containers. Some even give discounts.
#CleanSeas Break-Up PSA: "It's not me, it's you." - YouTube
Our consumer behaviour can help businesses be more responsible, and policy can help support these changes. Here in Queensland we're phasing out single-use plastic bags and later this year we'll start a container deposit system for plastic drink bottles - along with bottles and cans.
This can also be chance for community groups (churches, scouts, sports clubs) to collect containers as a fundraiser while also improving the environment. Hopefully we can keep plastic out of the ocean, out of our fish and out of our bodies.
The Simply Cups website track how many cups are collected. As I write this, they've done more than 930,000 cups. From only 250 sites, that's quite amazing.
Of course the best thing to do is to use a reusable cup (see which cafes give you a discount for that). But the next best thing is to recycle the paper cups - especially at the office where there are so many.
This Saturday Aldi (in Australia) are having an amazing sale on LED lights - which are super efficient. How efficient? Their conversion chart shows ust how much less power these bulbs use to give the same light. Huge savings.
So much do these amazing pieces of technology cost? Not much.
How much energy does a light bulb use? Is it worth replacing it? Those kind of answers can be found with this easy guide.
Find the light bulb wattage on the left hand side. Across the top find the hours per day it is used. Where that row and column meet is the cost of powering that light bulb for one year.
An old 75 Watt bulb running 5 hours a night costs $37 a year. Definitely worth changing to a more efficient option.
It also works for other items - if you know their power usage. A stereo that uses 10 Watts in standby mode all day will cost $24 a year even without playing any music; might be worth turning off at the wall. A laptop computer that uses 20 Watts and is used for 4 hours per day will cost just $8 to run.
For this calculator I've assumed 27 cents per unit of electricity. If your price is different then the estimates may vary.
Also, if the exact wattage isn't in the table, use one that is close to it as an estimate. Or if you've got a calculator you can do the exact calculations yourself. Here's the formula: Cost = Watts x hours/day x 0.365 x price($/kWh)