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The missing climate science message

In Science this week, a commentary (subscription required) from John Sterman, who studies systems thinking at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, argues that the public may shy off of action against climate change because their basic mental model of the problem is wrong. People don’t intuitively understand how changing rates of carbon dioxide emissions affect the overall concentration of the gas in the atmosphere, Sterman says. In fact, they often make mistakes when thinking about how ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ sum up to form a total ‘stock’ – “even in simple, familiar contexts such as bank accounts and bathtubs”. 

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