We humans are creatures of bounded rationality and finite processing capacity, and it is understandable that we focus attention first on the here and now. And yet, many individual and social issues (from sufficient pension savings, to healthy eating, to sustainable economic growth) require increased attention to the future costs and benefits of possible courses of action. Climate change is the most recent and arguably the most urgent and difficult challenge for individual and collective decision making. To make wise decisions we need to fully and justly weighs the immediate and certain costs and benefits of action (be it business-as-usual or greenhouse gas mitigation efforts) against their delayed, risky, and often disputed costs and benefits. Psychological theories from prospect theory to hyperbolic discounting and query theory predict that the future costs of business-as-usual and the future benefits of GHG mitigation efforts will get short thrift. I present three interventions that have been shown to focus greater attention on future consequences and thus provide entry points for interventions that allow for better balance between short-term and long-term goals and objectives.
Elke Weber is the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Her research models decision-making under uncertainty and time delay in financial and environmental contexts from a psychological and neuroscience perspective. Her expertise in the behavioral decision sciences has been sought out by advisory committees of the National Academy of Sciences on Human Dimensions in Global Change, an American Psychological Association Task Force that issued a report on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change, and Working Group III for the 5th and 6th Assessment Report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She is past president of the Society for Neuroeconomics, the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and the Society for Mathematical Psychology. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Society for Risk Analysis, the Society for Experimental Psychology. She received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for Risk Analysis and was also elected to the German National Academy of Sciences.