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The Fear Factor

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 6, 2009 12:44 AM


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If we really want to lick this global warming problem, then we need to be scared straight, says an Australian ethics professor:

There is a view we should not scare people because it makes them go down their burrows and close the door but I think the situation is so serious that although people are afraid they are not fearful enough given the science. Personally I cannot see any alternative to ramping up the fear factor.

A lot of smart people who are concerned about global warming believe this in their hearts--that fear is the best (and possibly only) motivating tool. But absent the kind of visceral connection that gets ordinary people worried about the environment, real mass concern remains elusive. Hence the temptation by many climate advocates to play up fearsome links between individual weather disasters, like a flood or wildfire, and climate change. Do environmental ethicists have anything to say about this political strategy?

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