Why we are worried about global terrorism and not global warming

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 31, 2006
Filed in Culture

Social psychologist, Dan Gilbert, says people will not get excited and worried about global warming in the same way people have about global terrorism because of the way our minds have evolved over millions of years. In his essay for The Times, Gilbert suggests 4 reasons for this disparity:

  • Global warming does not represent people attacking us and we have evolved to be incredibility interested in people.
  • Global warming doesn’t violate our moral sensibilities in the same way transgressing social taboos will. As Gilbert says: “And so we are outraged about every breach of protocol except Kyoto.”
  • Global warming is a long term threat and we have evolved to detect clear and present dangers.
  • Rate of climate change is too slow for people to really notice and therefore care.

You might be wondering why in a business blog I’m talking about climate change and terrorism. Well, these same factors, which render people apathetic to global warming, also affect people in organisations with issues like knowledge loss resulting from a retiring, aging workforce, how outsourcing and automation will require 1st world nations to focus on right brain capabilities, and how increasing connectivity among people will require a new worldview encompassing complexity principles.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. joitske says:

    Someone here commented that people would be more scared though if it was global cooling down, in the Netherlands we don’t mind warming up a little 🙂

  2. There are other reasonable causes why we don’t get upset about global warming. Take a look at this talk by Michael Crichton here:
    I find his skepticism healthy and thought-provoking.

  3. andrew says:

    Believe it or not, up until the end of the 80’s the big thing WAS global cooling. Global warming, just like global cooling, is science by consensus and just a political sham. But the scientists tried out global cooling first because cooling periods are a lot scarier to pretty much everyone (including me) than warming periods which have always been times for people to prosper. Believe in global warming if you want to, but there has been no proof supporting. Only disproving it.

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