When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.
Also check out this article on the everyday denial of climate change.
The term "denial" is sometimes used to describe the outright rejection of scientifically accepted information, as in the case of climate skeptics. But for most people, who do genuinely care about the planet, denial takes the form of avoidance rather than rejection. People avoid disturbing information in order to sidestep unpleasant emotions and to maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity. As a result of this kind of denial, people have a sense of knowing and not knowing about climate change, of having information but not thinking about it in their daily lives. Information from climate science is understood in the abstract but disconnected from social or private life.