Global warming affects who?!

Treehugger thinks that this chart means we’re all deluded. It shows the percentage of people surveyed who believe that global warming will harm the groups described.

I think the chart makes complete sense and shows people to be remarkably sensible. Imagine you were in a room waiting for a job interview with one other person. The probability that someone will be hired is 0.9, the probability that it will be someone presently in the room is 0.6 and the probability that it will be you is 0.3. If you were asked for yes/no answers on whether someone would be hired, whether it would be someone in the room and whether it would be you, you’d answer yes, yes and no based on those probabilities.

If I had no specific knowledge of the effects of global warming and who is at risk, then the distribution of risk is random as far as I am concerned. Then, as we look at more disaggregated groups, it is less likely that an individual group will be affected. There’s a big difference in probabilities between ‘some human at some stage in the future being affected’ and ‘me being affected now’. The chart reflects people’s understanding of that.

4 replies
  1. Brad Taylor
    Brad Taylor says:

    Completely agree, but framing effects mean that people are crap at thinking about probability. Treehugger is making a mistake, but so would many others.

    And how exactly does one harm a plant?

  2. StephenR
    StephenR says:

    And how exactly does one harm a plant?

    If a plant has difficulty surviving – or even dies – because of a changing climate, I would suppose that constitutes harm…

  3. Truth Seeker
    Truth Seeker says:

    I’d interpret the chart is portraying the reality that almost everyone has no real idea of their place in the world or how it all fits together.

    If you look at an oncoming truck through a backward telescope it will appear small and far away even as it is about to convert you into bug paste.

    I think this is how most people see the world….based on a lifetime of observation.

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