The very readable book The Wizard and the Prophet tells the story of environmental prophet William Vogt investigating the apocalypse-level deaths of guano-making birds near Peru. When he discovered the cause in the El Nino weather cycle, his policy recommendations were to do nothing to mitigate this natural cause; he instead railed against many much smaller human influences, demanding their reversal. A few years later his classic 1948 screed
It seems clear why we might have some distrust/aversion to big changes that happen in a non-gradual fashion. Complex institutions (like civilization itself) are hard to fully understand and it's easy to miss unforeseen ways big changes might have a disastrous result but be irreversible. More psychologically big changes (like moving to a foreign country or radically changing your country) create a fear of being in an unfamiliar environment and even if we might know intellectually that others would be similarly unfamiliar it make us feel anxious and vulnerable..
All that's left to explain people's observed behavior is to point out that people are really bad at intuitively appreciating the power of compounding. Mention how things might be 100 years in the future and for most people it doesn't feel like the result of a steady, unremarkable stream of little changes over time....it feels like it can only happen via a dramatic shift.
One should not believe the speaker is wrong and try to prove to her or him wrong in a confrontational manner. Rather, treat the speaker as your neighbor. Have compassion, empathy, patience and understanding in discussions with your neighbors. Learn to listen. You will learn more by listening than talking. There should not be Others, but Neighbors.
This really doesn't have anything to do with Hansen's failure to consider the threat of global warming. And these *essays* (not science) are full of explicit and implicit assumptions and big "ifs". It's downright bizarre that Horgan is buoyed up by Pinker's “Since 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency was established, ..." -- does he follow the news? And that whole paragraph is chock full of point-missing strawmen and sticking his head in the sand. Optimism is fine, if it doesn't dissuade needed action. (Horgan actually writes "Wishful thinking works", proclaiming himself to be an idiot ... and further blathers about "taking solace" in propaganda pieces so he doesn't have worry about reality.) Pinker saying that, contrary to those silly leftists, we'll be just fine with 10 billion people and our current CO2 trends is irresponsible to the point of a crime against humanity.
As for Matt Ridley, he's climate-science-denying extreme libertarian ideologue with vested interests in fossil fuel:https://www.desmogblog.com/...https://www.skepticalscienc...https://whyevolutionistrue....
Your cherry picking of Horgan and Ridley while ignoring the entirety of climate science makes it very unlikely that anything will change your mind about global warming, but then I don't expect to be heard when I write here.
And, more recently,https://blogs.scientificame...
Perhaps thresholds are a simpler explanation. My confidence is high that for almost every variable, the system I'm concerned with can only withstand so much change in that variable.
Even if I don't know what that threshold is, a large change is much more likely to drive us over it than a small change.
No mention of the genuine existential threat of global warming, with massive consequences not all that far off.
I would think the most likely reason is they see small changes as under possible control and choice by those living under it, and potentially reversible should they change how they react, while large change suggests scales beyond our control though possibly not beyond our adaptation, but more interesting to consider how we would adapt to it. Incremental change is often viewed as progress while large scale change as disruption. Incrementally we choose a favored local direction, worry about the future, but hope for the best due to our limitations.
The explanation to ignoring short term incremental versus big long term change may lie in our evolved human psychology. Humans are experts at coalition politics, keeping on the good side of their in-group, and furthermore often elephant in the brain unaware of this.
So what happens is we see views of the group evolve over time, but a certain kind of presentism makes people typically oblivious to this. For example republicans were traditionally pro-immigration (think Reagan), and Democrats against. Then that flipped recently, and in particular Democrats have radically shifted to be pro-immigrant as a in-group status marker and identifier. But.....most people are unaware of this shift. They just know what they think today, and if asked may assume these were always their views, or at least have to think hard to realize their past self had different group views.
The point here is the gradual shifts of in-group beliefs are both natural and no big deal. Humans are built to readily do this, and forget they do this. But ultimately it is not a worry or concern.
But radical shifts that are big, whether near or far, portend strife and conflict. Either between groups or within them. If the shift is big enough, our intuition tells us our in-group will be in a fight. Alarms go off.
Maybe the next step in this is to think of some odd examples where small shifts would create in-group or out-group conflict. And see if people are as concerned about that as big long term shifts. If so, then the underlying psychology is about whether your in-group cohesion is threatened. In hansonian terms: futurism in not about the future, it's about how possible future change will impact the status and cohesion of your current in-group.
Hmmm... maybe one possible way to test this is to posit that gene editing/CRISPR technology works and you can do it to as an IVF procedure to your children to increase their health and IQ a lot. Now. Posit various side effects. Side effect case 1: your children become far more prone to be deeply religious (just the religious inclination, not any particular faith). Side effect case 2: your children become atheists. Then do a survey to see who is more worried about which case. Maybe this is not a perfect example, but the idea of using various possible side effects seems like a good one. maybe side effects on tendencies to be conformists, or not be conformists, or to be bookish, or to be an agressive athlete, or whatever.
One could probably figure out some good cases which would allow you to discern exactly which small incremental changes are flagged as alarming. And in finding those quirky cases reveal why people are not (by default) alarmed at incremental changes over time, versus big radical changes.
Slow vs. fast change -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...