Please explain the special social problem with climate change.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a variety of special social problems that can be associated with climate change.  One particular special social problem would be social justice. Climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gas through the use of fossil fuels impacts everyone. The special social problem is that all are impacted without all of the nations being responsible for the condition. Wealthier nations that have burned fossil fuels as a way to generate economic strength have endangered all nations. There is a special problem of social justice when examining the issue of climate change:

The impacts of greenhouse gas emissions will disproportionately affect those societies who have contributed the least to the problem. Low-lying Pacific states, collectively responsible for fewer than 0.6% of the world's emissions, face dispossession. Yet the worst offenders, including Australia and the United States, continue to pollute at historically high levels. Justice demands that wealthy polluters should end their reliance on fossil fuels, and embrace a future based on a fair share of resource use for all.

This reflects one special social problem with climate change.  Nations that have endangered all should be called upon to remedy their ways. At the same time, given how economically struggling nations like Bangladesh already deal with the impact of climate change such as rising rivers and cataclysmic floods, the problem of social justice associated with climate change acquires a particularly sad condition. In these ways, a special problem related to social justice within the issue of climate change is evident.

I would suggest that another special problem associated with climate change is the lack of desire to take action. Studies indicate that individuals recognize the condition of climate change as a formidable one:  "A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that people in almost all of the 38 countries surveyed perceived climate change to be the biggest threat facing their country."  However, this is where the problem emerges.  There is a gap between understanding the reality of the problem and doing little to solve the issue.  Seeing that human action plays a vital role in both its perpetuation and resolution, inertia becomes an interesting social problem associated with climate change.  Examining contradictory human behavior in admitting there is a concern, but showing little in way of a resolve to solve it reflects a special problem associated with climate change:

An article in Time magazine published in August 2013 cites Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, who argues that it is difficult for us to think of climate change as an enemy because it doesn’t take human form. Several studies show that people perceive climate change risks as concerning others, not themselves. 

Seeing climate change as a "problem" that "doesn't take human form" is a social one.  It is a mentality that prevents effective and meaningful action from being taken.  At the same time, rationalization prevents individuals from taking action:

Research conducted with Swiss focus groups.... found that people undergo a variety of thought-processes to assuage guilt over non-action, such as “I protect the environment in other ways,” “I am not the main cause,” or, “I am only a tiny contributor to the problem,” and “it is too difficult for me to change my behavior.”

Such inertia constructs special social problems associated with climate change.

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