您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 科学 >> 正文

妨碍人类应对气候变化的是什么?

更新时间:2019/4/1 21:21:00 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How brain biases prevent climate action
妨碍人类应对气候变化的是什么?

We know that climate change is happening. We also know that it’s the result of increased carbon emissions from human activities like land degradation and the burning of fossil fuels. And we know that it’s urgent.

我们知道,气候正在变化。我们也知道,这是土地退化和化石燃料燃烧等人类活动导致碳排放增加的结果。我们还知道,形势紧迫。

A recent report from international climate experts tells us that we are likely to reach 1.5C of average global warming in as little as 11 years. At that point we can expect “increased risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth”. These experts also found that temperature rise has already altered human and natural systems in profound ways, resulting in more extreme weather, the melting polar ice caps, sea level rise, droughts, floods and biodiversity loss.

国际气候专家近期的一份报告显示,在短短11年里,全球平均气温可能就会升高1.5摄氏度。届时,我们会面临“更严重的健康、生计、粮食安全、供水、人类安全和经济增长问题”。专家们还发现,气温上升已经深刻地改变了人类和自然体系,导致极端天气增加、极地冰盖融化、海平面上升、干旱、洪涝和生物多样性消失。

But that information hasn’t been enough to change our behaviours on a scale great enough to stop climate change. And a big part of the reason is our own evolution. The same behaviours that once helped us survive are, today, working against us.

但这些信息还不足以令我们的行为习惯发生重大改变来阻止气候变化。其中很大一部分原因是我们自身的演化,那些曾经帮助人类生存下来的行为,如今却变得不利。

It’s important to remember one thing, however. It’s true that no other species has evolved to create such a large-scale problem – but no other species has evolved with such an extraordinary capacity to solve it, either.

然而,记住这点很重要:确实没有其他物种演化到能制造这么大的麻烦,但也没有哪个物种演化出了解决这个问题的非凡能力。

Brain biases

大脑偏见

We lack the collective will to address climate change because of the way our brains have evolved over the last two million years.

人类大脑在过去200万年的演化方式令我们缺乏应对气候变化的集体意志。

“Humans are very bad at understanding statistical trends and long-term changes,” says political psychologist Conor Seyle, director of research at One Earth Future Foundation, a programme incubator that focuses on fostering peace long-term.

同一个地球未来基金会(One Earth Future Foundation)是一个致力于促进长久和平的项目孵化器,基金会的研究主管兼政治心理学家塞勒(Conor Seyle)说:“人类很不擅长理解统计学上的趋势和长期变化。”

“We have evolved to pay attention to immediate threats. We overestimate threats that are less likely but easier to remember, like terrorism, and underestimate more complex threats, like climate change.”

“我们在进化中只关注眼前的威胁。对发生概率较低但容易记住的威胁往往会高估,比如恐怖主义,但对气候变化这类更为复杂的威胁却往往估计不足。”

In early phases of human existence we faced an onslaught of daily challenges to our survival and ability to reproduce – from predators to natural disasters. Too much information can confuse our brains, leading us to inaction or poor choices that can place us in harm’s way.

在人类出现的早期,我们每天都面临或是生死攸关或是危及繁衍的突发挑战,从捕食性动物到自然灾害各种都有。信息太多会令大脑不知所措,致使思维迟钝或做出错误的选择,从而将自身置于危险境地。

As a result, our brains evolved to filter information rapidly and focus on what is most immediately essential to our survival and reproduction. We also evolved to remember both threats, so that they could be avoided in the future, and opportunities, so we could easily recall where to find sources of food and shelter.

于是,我们的大脑演化出了快速过滤信息的能力,并专注于对生存和繁衍最重要的信息。同时既能记住威胁,也能记住机遇,以便在未来避开威胁,并轻松回忆起在哪里可以找到食物和住所。  

These biological evolutions ensured our capacity to reproduce and survive by saving our brains time and energy when dealing with vast amounts of information. However, these same functions are less useful in our modern reality and cause errors in rational decision-making, known as cognitive biases. “Cognitive biases that ensured our initial survival make it difficult to address complex, long-term challenges that now threaten our existence, like climate change,” says Seyle.

这些生物进化为大脑在处理大量信息时节省了时间和精力,从而确保了我们的繁衍和生存能力。然而,到了现代社会,这些功能不再那么有用,并会导致在理性决策时犯错,也就是有认知偏见。“起初,认知偏见帮助人类得以存活,但现在却让我们难以应对危及生存的复杂长期挑战,比如气候变化。”塞勒说。

Psychologists have identified more than 150 cognitive biases we all share. Of these, a few are particularly important in explaining why we lack the will to act on climate change.

心理学家总结了150多个普遍存在的认知偏见,其中几个很能解释我们为什么缺乏对气候变化采取行动的意志。

Hyperbolic discounting. This is our perception that the present is more important than the future. Throughout most of our evolution it was more advantageous to focus on what might kill us or eat us now, not later. This bias now impedes our ability to take action to address more distant-feeling, slower and complex challenges.

我们认为现在比将来更重要。在人类演化的大部分时间里,专注于当下就会杀死或是吃掉我们的东西比想以后的危险更有利。但现在,当应对更遥远、发展更缓慢和更为复杂的挑战时,这种偏见阻碍了我们采取行动的能力。

Our lack of concern for future generations. Evolutionary theory suggests that we care most about just a few generations of family members: our great-grandparents to great-grandchildren. While we may understand what needs to be done to address climate change, it’s hard for us to see how the sacrifices required for generations existing beyond this short time span are worth it.

缺乏对后代的关心。演化论认为,我们最关心的只有几代家庭成员:从曾祖辈到曾孙辈。尽管我们可能知道应对气候变化要做什么,但很难看到为这几代之外的人做出牺牲价值何在。

The bystander effect. We tend to believe that someone else will deal with a crisis. This developed for good reason: if a threatening wild animal is lurking at the edge of our hunter-gatherer group, it’s a waste of effort for every single member to spring into action — not to mention could needlessly put more people into danger. In smaller groups, it was usually pretty clearly delineated who would step up for which threats, so this worked. Today, however, this leads us to assume (often wrongly) that our leaders must be doing something about the crisis of climate change. And the larger the group, the stronger this bias becomes.

旁观者效应。我们总是认为其他人会处理危机。形成这种偏见是有原因的:大家一起打猎时,当外围出现了一头危险的野生动物,如果每个人都立即行动就是浪费精力——更会无谓地把更多人置于危险之中。在较小的群体中,通常会非常明确地规定由谁来应对哪些威胁,这样是有效的。但到了现代,这促使我们(往往是错误地)认为,领导人肯定对气候变化的危机有所行动了。群体规模越大,这种偏见就越严重。

The sunk-cost fallacy. We are biased towards staying the course even in the face of negative outcomes. The more we've invested time, energy or resources into that course, the more likely we are to stick with it – even if it no longer seems optimal. This helps explain, for example, our continued reliance on fossil fuels as a primary source of energy in the face of decades of evidence that we both can and should transition to clean energy and a carbon neutral future.

沉没成本谬误。即使结果是消极的,我们也倾向于坚持到底。投入其中的时间、精力或资源越多,坚持下去的可能性就越大——即便这似乎已经不是最佳方案。比如,尽管数十年的证据都表明,我们能够也应该转向清洁能源,并在未来实现碳中和,但却仍然依赖化石燃料并将它作为主要能源。沉没成本谬误解释了这种现象。

These cognitive biases evolved for good reason. But they’re now hamstringing our ability to respond to what could be the largest crisis humanity has ever created or had to face.

形成这些认知偏见都是有原因的,但现在,人类正面临有史以来所制造的,或不得不面对的最大危机,认知偏见却削弱了我们的应对能力。

Evolutionary upside

演化的好处

The good news is that our biological evolution hasn’t just hindered us from addressing the challenge of climate change. It’s also equipped us with capacities to overcome them.

好消息是,人类的演化并不只是阻碍了我们应对气候变化的挑战,它也让我们具备了处理气候变化的能力。

Take our capacity for mental “time travel”. Compared to other animals, we are arguably unique in the degree to which we can recall past events and anticipate future scenarios.

以人类在精神上的“时间旅行”能力为例。与其他动物相比,我们在回忆过去和预测未来上可以说是无与伦比。

We can imagine and predict multiple, complex outcomes and identify actions needed in the present to achieve desired outcomes in the future. And individually we often prove able to act on these plans. We invest in retirement accounts and buy insurance, for example, as ways to counter our short-term interests over the long-term.

我们能够想象和预测各种复杂的结果,并根据未来想要达到的结果来决定当前需要采取的行动。事实证明,如果只是我们自己,往往能够执行这些计划。比如,我们会投资退休账户并购买保险,以此用短期利益换取长远利益。

Unfortunately, this capacity to plan to ensure a future outcome breaks down when large-scale collective action is needed – as is the case with climate change. As individuals, we know what we can do about climate change. But addressing the issue also requires collective action on a scale that exceeds our evolutionary capacities. The larger the group, the more challenging it gets. Remember the bystander effect?

遗憾的是,当需要采取大规模的集体行动时,这种制定计划以确保未来取得某个结果的能力就会出问题——应对气候变化时就是如此。作为个体,我们知道面对气候变化自己能做些什么。但应对这个问题还需要采取集体行动,规模超出了我们进化的能力。群体规模越大难度也就越大。还记得旁观者效应吗?

But in small groups, it’s a different story.

但在小团体中就是另一回事了。

As primates, we evolved to work cooperatively to defend territory and sustainably harvest food and resources for the group, all while ensuring enough genetic diversity to procreate. Anthropological experiments show us that, on average, any one individual can maintain stable relationships with 150 other people – a phenomenon known as “Dunbar’s number”. Beyond that social relationships begin to break down, undermining an individual’s ability to trust and rely on the actions of others to achieve collective long-term goals.

作为灵长类动物,我们通过演化已经能够合作保卫领地、可持续地为群体获取食物和资源,并同时确保遗传的多样性足以繁衍后代。人类学实验告诉我们,平均而言,每个个体能够与150个人保持稳定的关系——这一现象被称作邓巴数(Dunbar's number)。超过150人,社会关系就会开始破裂,影响我们对他人的信任,不再那么依赖别人的行动去实现集体的长远目标。

Recognising the power of small groups, Exposure Labs, the film company behind Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral, is using its films to mobilise communities to take local action on climate change. For example, in South Carolina, a US state rife with leaders who deny climate change, Exposure Labs shows a film to get a conversation started, inviting people from various interest groups – like the agricultural, fisheries, and tourism industries – to talk about how climate change affects them personally. They then work these small groups to identify practical actions that can be taken immediately at the local level to make an impact – something that helps generate the political pressure necessary to compel lawmakers to pass relevant local or state-wide legislation. When local communities shape the narrative around individual interests, people are less likely to succumb to the bystander effect and more likely to engage.

纪录片《逐冰之旅》(Chasing Ice)和《追逐珊瑚》(Chasing Coral)的影视制作公司曝光实验室(Exposure Labs)认识到了小群体的力量,正在利用影片动员社区就气候变化的问题在当地采取行动。比如,在很多领导人都否认气候变化的美国南卡罗莱纳州,曝光实验室通过电影开启了对话。公司邀请不同利益集团的代表讲述气候变化对他们个人的影响,受访者来自农业、渔业和旅游业等等。然后,他们与这些小群体合作,找到能够立即在当地展开并产生影响的实际行动——能够制造必要的政治压力,迫使立法者通过相关的地方或州级法例。本地社区以个人利益出发来阐述时,人们屈从于旁观者效应的可能性就会降低,更有机会参与其中。

These approaches use a couple of other psychological strategies, too. First, when small groups are involved in coming up with solutions themselves, they experience the endowment effect: when we own something (even an idea), we tend to value it more. Second, social comparison: we tend to evaluate ourselves by looking at others. If we’re surrounded by other people in a group who are taking action on climate change, we’re more likely to do the same. This is also the impetus behind programmes like comparing energy consumption from household to household in a community. Research shows that when people compare their energy use with their neighbours’ via statements on their energy bills they are more likely to reduce energy consumption.

这些方法也用到了其他的心理策略。首先,小群体自己参与提出解决方案会出现禀赋效应:当拥有某样东西(甚至是某个想法)时,我们倾向于高估它的价值。其次是社会比较:我们习惯通过参照别人来评价自己。如果周围的人都是应对气候变化的行动派,我们更有可能也行动起来。所以会在同一社区比较各家的能源消耗。研究表明,当人们在账单上将自己的能源使用情况同邻居比较时,更有可能少用能源。

Of all our cognitive biases, however, the framing effect is one of the strongest affecting our decision-making processes. Humans are more likely to change behaviour when challenges are framed positively, instead of negatively. In other words, how we communicate about climate change influences how we respond. People are more likely to act in relation to a positive frame (“a clean energy future will save X number of lives”) versus a negative statement (“we’re going to go extinct due to climate change”).

但在所有认知偏见中,框架效应是影响我们决策的最大因素之一。如果对挑战的描述是积极而非消极的,人类就更有可能改变行为。换句话说,对气候变化问题的表述影响我们的应对方式。相对于消极的表述(“我们会因气候变化而灭绝”),积极的框架(“一个使用清洁能源的未来能拯救X条生命”)更有可能让人们行动起来。

“Most people believe that climate change is real, but feel powerless to do something about it in the face of consequences that feel far away from home,” says Exposure Labs managing director Samantha Wright. “So to get people to act, we need to make the issue feel direct and personal by focusing the issue locally, pointing both to local impacts and local solutions: like moving one's city to 100% renewable energy.”

“大部分人相信气候真的在变化,但觉得后果离自己很遥远,因而无能为力,”曝光实验室的董事总经理赖特(Samantha Wright)说。“因此,为了让人们行动起来,我们必须把重点放在当地的气候变化上,让人们感到问题和自己直接相关,既指出对当地的影响,也提出适合当地的解决方案,比如让一个城市彻底改用可再生能源。”

Similarly, behaviour change must be incentivised at the local level. One nation leading the way has been Costa Rica, which put in place an innovative carbon tax on fuel back in 1997. To emphasise the connection for taxpayers between fuel use and benefits to their own communities, part of the revenue goes to pay farmers and indigenous communities to protect and regrow Costa Rica’s tropical forests. Costa Rica’s system “now generates $33 million annually for these groups and has helped the country reverse their forest loss while growing and transforming their economy,” says Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy. In 2018, 98% of electricity used in the country came from renewable energy sources.

同样,也必须在当地鼓励人们改变行为习惯。在这方面,哥斯达黎加走在了前列,早在1997年就开始征收燃料碳排放税,开创了先河。为了向纳税人强调燃料使用与所在社区的利益相互关联,部分税收收入拨给了农民和原住民社区,用于哥斯达黎加热带森林的保护和再生。哥斯达黎加环境与能源部长罗德里格斯(Carlos Manuel Rodriguez)表示,该国的碳排放征税体系“现在每年为这些群体创造3300万美元的收入,扭转了森林减少的趋势,同时促进了经济增长和转型”。2018年,哥斯达黎加98%的电力来自可再生能源。

Rodriguez says the country is going even further; they’ve announced a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, an effort which will include a bus fleet that is 70% electric by 2035 and cutting the number of cars used in cities in half by 2040. The key has been having a large-scale, organised effort – but one supported and understood by hundreds of smaller groups and communities.

罗德里格斯称,哥斯达黎加还会更进一步。该国已经宣布要在2050年实现碳中和,其中包括在2035年有70%的公共汽车使用电能,在2040年将城市汽车数量减半。规模庞大、有组织的行动是其中的关键,而且这得到了成百上千个小群体和社区的支持。

At a larger scale, the Paris Agreement and the EU’s 2050 carbon neutrality plan play a similar role, creating a common climate change action framework for countries, cities, towns and the private sector. “The EU’s 2050 carbon neutral plan is what’s needed at the global level to generate enough momentum, awareness and action, more importantly, it sets an example that can be matched and replicated by others,” says Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, a global partnership of bird conservation organisations.

在更大范围内,《巴黎协定》(Paris Agreement)和欧盟的2050年碳中和计划发挥着类似作用,为国家、城市、村镇和私营企业创建了气候变化的共同行动框架。国际鸟盟(BirdLife International)是鸟类保育组织的全球联盟,首席执行官苏里塔(Patricia Zurita)表示:“欧盟的2050年碳中和计划对于在全球激发足够的动力、意识和行动必不可少,更重要的是,它树立了一个可供其他国家效仿和复制的榜样。”

Above all, the most helpful trait we’ve evolved to have is our ability to innovate. In the past, we used this skill to discover fire, invent the wheel or plant the first fields. Today, it may look more like solar panels, wind farms, electric vehicles and carbon pricing. Along with innovation, we’ve evolved to have the communication and technology to pass these innovations on, allowing a single idea or invention to spread far beyond our own family or town.

最重要的是,创新能力是人类进化出的最有用的品质。过去,我们凭借创新发现了火、发明了轮子、耕种了第一片田地。如今,这项能力可能更多地体现在太阳能电池板、风力发电厂、电动汽车和碳定价上。此外,我们还演化出了传播这些创新所需的工具和技术,使一个想法或一项发明能够走出自己的家及所在的城镇。

From mental time travel to cooperative social behavior to our abilities to innovate, teach and learn, all of these evolutionary consequences always have helped us secure our own survival, and they will continue to do so – albeit in the face of a very different threat than we had in our hunter-gatherer days.

从精神时间旅行到合作性社会行为,再到我们创新、教育和学习的能力,所有这些演化结果始终,并将继续确保人类得以生存——尽管我们面临的威胁已与采猎时代截然不同。

We have evolved to be able to stop human-induced climate change. Now we must act.

通过演化,人类已经能够阻止人为因素导致的气候变化。现在,我们必须行动起来。

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表