Perspectives on the greenhouse effect and global warming By S.M. Enzler MSc
How do we respond to global warming?
People may develop various perspectives throughout their lives. It turns out these perspectives are an important determinant for a person's perception of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The theory of perspectives was developed by Professor John Adams at University College London.
We must note that these perspectives are part of a model described in social science. Alternatives to this view of interactions between humans and nature exist and it can therefore not be viewed as absolute.
There are four types of perceptions of nature, which were called 'myths of nature' by John Adams. These myths of nature are explained here. Each myth can be represented graphically by a sphere rolling in a landscape.
The myths of nature can be applied on a person's perception of the greenhouse effect and global warming. This would mean that a person with a nature benign perception would not want us to act upon global warming, believing that nature itself will restore its natural balance. Contrarily, a person with a nature ephemeral perception would speak of global warming as a so-called 'doom-scenario' upon which we must act, otherwise nature will be seriously disturbed beyond repair. A person with a nature perverse perception would want some action to be taken, but is not as extreme as an ephemeral type, nor as commonsensible as a benign type.
These four myths of nature divide people up in four distinct types by perception:
The view of nature and the perception types mentioned above determine a person's world view. This basically means his or her perception of reality, consisting of a view on the structure of reality and a vision of the relationship between people and the environment. The relationship between people and the environment can be perceived in three different ways; as anthropocentric, as ecocentric and as partnership. These three perceptions cause different attitudes towards risk.
Whether a person is an individualist, an egalitarian or a hierarchist has a major impact on his or her perception of the issue of climate change, as is shown in table 1.
Table 1: perspectives applied to the issue of climate change
Every world view holds its own distinctive management style, which basically means an approach towards response strategy including typical policy instruments:
The management style that is carried out in a country is not always typical for a world view. A country may have a matching world view and management style, which is called a utopia. In a dystopia, contrarily, the world view and management style do not match for some reason. The combination of a world view and a management style affects the way in which a country deals with global warming and other environmental problems.
Now, try to think of an environmental problem. In which manner would your country respond? Do you agree with this or do you perhaps perceive the issue from a different perspective?
Asselt, M.B.A. van, Rotmans, J., Uncertainty in Perspective. Global Env. Change 1996, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 121-157
Janssen, M.A. and Carpenter, S.R., Managing the Resilience of Lakes: a Multi-agent Modeling Approach. Conservation Ecology, 1999 volume 2
Maslin, M., Global Warming, a very short introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004