Q&A: Why effective climate change solutions remain so elusive
Johns Hopkins Professor Paul Ferraro has spent a lot of time thinking about climate change, and he’s uncovered a major barrier to combating the rise in global temperatures: the human psyche.
“The problem is that what we need to achieve is so daunting and taxes our resources so much that we end up with a situation that’s much, much worse than if we had focused our efforts,” says Ferraro, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor who is an expert in behavioral economics and the design and estimation of impacts of environmental programs. “Proposed hundred-pronged solutions end up being, in actuality, zero-prong solutions because the human brain, especially in the collective, doesn’t work like a computer.”
The Hub reached out to Ferraro—who holds appointments in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Carey Business School, and the Whiting School of Engineering—for help understanding a blistering United Nations report published last month examining how the climate is affected by the way humans use land. The report, which was among the nine action areas discussed at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit on Monday, found that human activity—particularly agriculture, deforestation, and activities that erode coastlines—has degraded roughly a quarter of all the ice-free land on the planet, preventing that land from effectively absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Ferraro helped put the report’s findings into perspective and spoke about which climate change interventions are and aren’t effective, his recent research, and what future climate studies might—and should—look like.