Title of contribution:

Unearthing complexities: COVID-19 versus climate change

Where & when:


Keynote: Unearthing complexities: COVID-19 versus climate change

Alongside frustratingly slow action on climate change, in a matter of a few months at the outset of 2020, a dramatic, fast and widespread transformation of society occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison, while climate science converges as never before regarding global warming, public opinion on climate change is fractured and collective action is slow. What happened here, and why are the two responses so markedly different? Applying Integral Theory to understand the differences between COVID-19 and climate change, in this presentation I harvest lessons from the pandemic to arrive at a novel perspective on why responses to the two crises have been so distinct. Join me on a deep look into four psychological aspects that made the coronavirus accessible and actionable in a way that climate change is not:

1) the complexity of meaning-making required to galvanize behaviour change,

2) the psychological distance that complicates buy-in and ownership over actions,

3) the approach to cross-domain and transdisciplinary responses, and

4) the salience of the issue being seen as worthy of immediate attention. Through discussion, we will consider these in turn and discuss how they compound and synergize, providing some clarity on the effective drivers and the tenacious sticking-points for transformations to sustainability.

About Hochachka Gail:

Gail Hochachka currently based at UBC as a visiting scholar in the Social-Ecological Systems Research Group in the Department of Forestry, and is also a doctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, doing research on the human dimensions of climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability. She co-founded Integral Without Borders Institute and has taught at the graduate level at John F. Kennedy University. Gail’s enduring interest is on how to better understand and integrate the human dimensions of global environmental change in a more comprehensive, integral approach.


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