A new computer model has shown individual decisions can massively influence how bad global warming might get. Time to take the human factor seriously, says Adam Corner
Climate scientists are in no doubt that global warming is almost entirely the result of human activity. Which makes it odd that attempts to predict how things will pan out have paid lip service to human behaviour, one of the key factors determining whether a sustainable future is possible.
A vast array of influences are routinely included in computer models simulating future climates, from cloud coverage to land use. However, a realistic account of how people perceive climate risks and alter habits or carry on as usual has been largely absent.
Typically, this human dimension has been limited to population-level inputs that assume we are economically rational decision-makers, behaving in a way that optimises financial gains and minimises losses. This conception of human behaviour is now thoroughly debunked.
A new study suggests a better way; it presents a model that couples