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Why we're seduced by climate tech and what it means for our happiness

For the most climate-anxious among us, it may even seem best to succumb to the climate tech horizon bias because of the short-term happiness benefits. However, recent research and personal experience are increasingly revealing that the climate catastrophe has already begun. Severe weather events, sea-level rise, and record-breaking heatwaves are impacting millions of people around the world, and doing so with increasing frequency (IPCC, 2023). In the face of this overwhelming evidence, nearly everyone (that doesn't already) should realize that climate tech is not a complete solution to the climate crisis. For those so in the grip of the climate tech horizon bias that they haven't done anything to help address climate change, the happiness impacts of being exposed to extreme weather events and other climate-change-related harms (Clayton, 2020) will include the extra sting of realizing that they had been seduced by the easy solace offered by over-hyped climate tech, and that they could have done more to prevent this affront to their and others' happiness. Human selfishness, weakness of will, and uncritical thinking are the root problems. Climate tech is part of the solution but, thanks to the horizon bias, may exacerbate the climate problem and cause unhappiness if it is relied upon too heavily. Given the current climate crisis, some unhappiness seems unavoidable. In our view, the best solution is to keep acting in climate friendly ways as individuals, which includes joining with others to encourage governments and businesses to take immediate large-scale steps to reduce emissions as well as mitigate the ongoing effects of historical emissions. Schwartz et al. (2022) found that collective climate action seemed the most likely way to prevent climate anxiety turning into depression, plausibly because it alleviates feelings of individual powerlessness. Perhaps even more importantly, collective climate action may be necessary to prevent a future marred with many climate catastrophes (Gonzalez-Perez and Piedrahita-Carvajal, 2022) and the widespread unhappiness they would cause. So while we should empower promising climate tech by investing in it, we should also empower ourselves by joining with others and pushing for immediate emissions reductions. If we're right, this will make us happier individually and collectively, especially in the medium- and long-run.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Frontiers Media SA
© 2023 The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).