The perception of risk is skewed when bad outcomes are vivid, personal and immediate.
Given the choice between working on the important and the urgent, the urgent almost always wins.
Given the choice between avoiding the rare but grisly outcome or doing the hard work to avoid the equally nasty, more subtle but more common outcome, we usually go for the grisly.
We do this sort of miscalculation all the time at work. We avoid the hard work on the long-term project in order to panic and rush about to avoid the possible vivid, immediate and personal risk on the short-term project, even if it's far less important.
(Think about this the next time you're in the security line at the airport).
This is one reason why the media is so complicit in many of the issues of the day… they take concepts that were previously abstract and relentlessly make them vivid, personal and immediate. It amplifies the risks around us and easily sells us on a cycle of dissatisfaction.
If you want to create action on the important, figure out how to make it vivid, personal and immediate.