Humans Aren't Stupid, We Just Happen To Be Acting Very Stupidly

It's not because we're dumb; it's because we haven't put in the time. Let's listen to the people who have put in the time.

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Narrator: This is my mate Justin Wood. Apart from being an overall great bloke, he's just finished his PhD, titled "Confronting the Abetment Paradox: Integrating Aerosol Cooling into Climate Mitigation Policy". Sorry, what?

In case you hadn't noticed, climate science and climate policy involve a hell of a lot of details. It's super, super complex and plebs like you and me, really don't get it. And it's actually not because we're dumb. Like our U10 report, our ineptitude isn't because we haven't got potential, but because we haven't put in the time.

Here are two of my best friends. Who've kindly volunteered to represent the climate pleb population that makes up the vast majority of Australians. I asked them how many hours a week they spend thinking, reading or trying in anyway to understand climate change and it's global implications.

Friend: Not a lot.

Friend: Negative three hours.

Narrator: In contrast, let's think about Justin. Justin spent about seven years studying climate science and policy fulltime. Just to be clear, if we go on averages, that's approximately 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year for seven years. Or 13,440 hours in total.

A few weeks ago, I got to interview Justin. As a climate pleb myself, I really had just one main question to ask him. What's all the fuss about Justin? In classic scientist fashion, his answer was really long and complicated. So I've cut down the jist of what he said, to some easy to understand bites. Sounds great.

Justin: The way we're going, if we continue with business as usual, when we get, if we get to these rises of temperature by the end of the century, you know 4,6,8,10 degrees, then he believes that we would be lucky if 5, 10% of the human population survived the century.

Narrator: Sorry, what?

Justin: The planet would essentially be uninhabitable for humans. Allowing for the maximum evaporation to cool us down, 35 degrees Celsius, is fatal for humans. We can't radiate away the heat that we naturally produce. So we'll just die of heat stress. And for huge proportions of the Earth, under these kind of scenarios, that wet-blub temperature of 35 degrees would be exceeded.

Narrator: Actually don't worry. After he said that, he said he thought it was implausible.

Justin: It's implausible because our civilizations would collapse long before we get to the point of digging up every last barrel of oil.

Narrator: Yup, good.

Justin: On the path that we're headed now, by some estimates, we're going to hit 4 degrees rise from the preindustrial by the middle of the century. That's like four decades away. We've got to stop kidding ourselves, this is what the science is showing us.

Under those conditions, I cannot imagine how the vast majority of humans are going to be able to continue.

Narrator: Now, before you go about trying to justify in your mind that he's wrong because these sort of horrific predictions just can't be true. Let's just think about one thing. Most of us are about just as entitled to argue with him as this small bee, or this happy family or gollars. The reality is we live in a specialized society. It takes years of hard work to get to the level of understanding that guys like Justin are at. And as a percentage of the global population, the number who've put that time in, is very small.

But there's people in that group who think climate change isn't caused by humans, right? Wrong. Actually there's freakishly few experts who disagree on that point. As Justin explains.

Justin: 97% of actual, active climate scientists agree with that position. That climate change is real, it's happening now and humans are the overwhelming cause in this century. And have been for the last 100 years. Is it gonna be bad? Or is it gonna be horrifically bad? This is what the scientists debate around. Not "it could be fine", nothing like that.

Narrator: But surely, if all the best minds who've spent far more than the rest of the population combine thinking, and weighing up of risks of freaking out. Wouldn't more people be doing something about it? You would hope so, but for a lot of complex reasons that is not the case. One of the main reasons is us. It's the climate plebs. It's all of us who spend no time thinking, or reading or trying to understand the risks involved with climate change.

As a society, we've got super duper distracted with our own lives. We go to work and have fun on the weekends and no one really thinks about climate change, apart from the people who've dedicated their lives to it. Which would be fine, if we listened to what they're saying. But we don't.

We hear vague talk of disagreement on the radio and we allow that to justify continued inaction. Without any further thought. If we'd actually dug a little deeper and thought about it a bit longer. We'd realize that these people have been consistently shown to have nothing to do with climate science. They often have expertise in business or PR or in politics, but not in climate science. So what's my point? And Justin's point? Put in the time. No one is saying you need to get a PhD. But prioritize some time in your routine to get yourself familiar with climate science. No one person has all the answers and no one person should. But with 2% of the population actually looking at the question and 98% doing absolutely everything they can to avoid it. Progress is virtually impossible.

And don't just take my word for it. Put some of your energy into investigating what I've just said. Use your brain. Judge what I've said. And why? Without mass engagement we risk the whole group of generally really nice people, doing something unspeakably horrific to people living only a few decades after them.

Justin: It's not that climate change could necessarily be a species extinction event for humanity. But you can't rule it out. And how crazy are we, to continue operating in this way?
[music plays]

There may be small errors in this transcript.

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