Diana Liverman   Plenary Speaker   12 March2009
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Diana Liverman Plenary Speaker 12 March2009

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Copenhagen Climate Congress March 12 2009

Copenhagen Climate Congress March 12 2009

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  • How much can we expect from individuals and non nation state organisations in responding to climate change? What are the policy responses beyond the direct economic instruments of pricing carbon, cap and trade, taxes, large scale technology investments or incentives for adaptation? As a plenary speaker for the theme mobilising the populace and representing the non or less economic social sciences and human dimensions, I will discuss some of the insights that social science research can offer into the role of human agents in responding to the climate change problem, and to understanding and implementing the solutions. I will argue that people – as citizens or leaders of business, government and civil society organizations – can make choices to reduce emissions and support adaptation that go beyond a direct economic rationale and that culture, ethics, information and perceptions hold some of the keys to a successful response to climate change. In designing carbon markets, implementing geoengineering and low carbon technologies, and developing international agreements we may fail unless we understand the range of possible human responses to these policies and technologies. These responses may include less obvious constraints on individual and organisational decisions, intense criticisms reflecting concerns about social justice and risks, voluntary efforts that go beyond those anticipated by the market, and broad changes in cultural norms and attitudes that promote changes in emissions. We know from experience that people acting individually and collectively can inspire and act to change their household, community, region and the world. To set the context for this talk let me ask you to think about the last time you made a conscious decision in relation to your personal carbon footprint. Why did you decide to offset your flight (or not) or not fly? Did you make a decision to recycle, invest in renewables and efficiency, or support an NGO or charity? Did you vote for a green political candidate or choose to purchase from a company with a green brand image? Why did you do this? And how environmentally significant are these decisions in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or adaptation to climate change?
  • Another way to think about the significance of human responses is to consider the well known McKinsey GHG abatement curve . The latest revision estimates potential reductions from 1990 global emissions of 35% by 2030, including a number of reductions that save rather than cost money. While McKinsey identifies only 4% of this reduction with behavioural changes – associated with changes in travel behaviour, home heating and cooling levels, and consumption of meat – there is a social dimension to the implementation of many other reductions on the curve. For example, research shows that getting consumers to switch to LED lighting and fuel efficient cars, to purchase efficient appliances and switch them off when not in use, or to insulate their houses and recycle waste, is not a simple matter of regulation, financial incentives or information but a complex interaction between these and social and cultural factors such as habits, gender, and norms. Some of the most immediate, large, and cost effective reductions identified by McKinsey are associated with reduced deforestation and better land management. In this case actions must be taken by thousands of individuals, often extremely poor and governed by weak institutions. Decades of work on forest governance and farm livelihoods reveals the grand challenges of these abatement opportunities but also provides insights into the keys for successful management of land and forest carbon. Many of the most important opportunities for reducing emissions are associated with technologies that range from biofuels and wind power, to nuclear power and CCS. Again, decades of research on public perceptions and acceptance of technology and risk, tells us that public concern backlash against some of these technologies may be expected and will slow their implementation unless care is taken to understand public attitudes and involve the public and social organizations in associated decisions. Let me discuss just a few of these issues in turn.
  • What do we know about attitudes to climate change and their links to mobilising the populace to act on climate change? Although research suggests that a change in attitude is not enough to change behaviour, it is clearly important to both individual action and support for policies to understand trends and patterns in attitudes to climate change Large scale surveys of the public and corporations show that awareness and concern about climate change has increased in most countries, including in many parts of the developing world. Social scientists such as Tony Leiserowitz, Nick Pidgeon, Riley Dunlap and Irene Lorenzoni have explored what lies behind these shifts. Although people increasingly accept that climate change is caused by human activity and see it as a personal worry many are still confused about its causes, focusing on the role of spray cans. It also appears that people see the need to act and would like to see governments respond and that their motivations include feelings of fear and loss, and for some, concern about distributional effects on distant lands and peoples. Very interesting recent shift is that of american evangelicals whose leaders changed position on climate change.
  • Do these changes in attitude translate into meaningful changes in behavior? In many cases they do not. Social science has developed a range of theories to explain the gap between attitude and action of which one, the information deficit model, is commonly adopted by natural scientists who mistakenly think that the key to changing public response to climate change is to provide more and more information. But many researchers have rejected this and other simple models and identified many other barriers to behavior change including external and contextual factors such as technological lock in to transport and energy infrastructure, or social lock in to cultural norms and habits (such as identity role of cars and consumption or leaving appliances on standby). Colleagues in Tyndall have found that the British public does not engage because some of them distrust the government, feel their actions will not count or they will act alone, or believe that the government and industry should act first.
  • Scholars such as Paul Stern, Tim Jackson and Ken Peattie have offered guidelines based on careful research and theory as to how to promote pro environmental behavior that include lessons from social marketing theory where the public or leaders are clustered into segments representing different views and requiring different approaches to changing behavior. Organisational theory focuses on iterative learning, leadership, and adaptation . Stern highlights the importance of social norms and the need for multiple interventions using examples from household energy behavior.
  • Recent surveys of willingness to act and reports of past action suggest that a significant percent of US and UK publics are considering or reporting changes in behavior, especially in terms of energy efficiency, recycling and adjusting home comfort levels but that far fewer are willing to travel less or eat less meat.
  • Adaptation is more often seen as an individual or community choice and we know a lot about how people have adapted to past climate variations and extremes. Social science has expanded our understanding of the many creative ways in which people adapt within food and water systems. For example, the Global Environmental Change and Food Systems project, which is based in ECI at Oxford, has shown adapting food systems to climate change is much more than adjusting cropping practices to maintain yields but may involve off farm incomes, remittances, switching from crops to livestock, buying insurance, giving up culturally significant foods, changing food processing and transportation, coming into conflict with biofuels and negotiating urban or ecosystem water needs, coping with carbon labels, and exploring new food sources from algae. But we also know there are limits to individual adaptation and that major investments and new institutions are going to be needed to help people cope with climate change. One initiative is the new CGIAR challenge program that will link the international agricultural research network with the earth system science partnership. But this conference has also warned us that we may be facing warming exceeding 2 degrees and as high as 4 degrees this century, where we have hardly even thought about the human dimensions of adaptation. Oxford and Tyndall hosting a conference on the world at 4 degrees and beyond in Sep 09.
  • Over the last decade a significant number of companies, including some of the world’s largest GHG emitters, have made voluntary commitments to reduce their emissions and have been joined by many cities and other regional governments. Surveys show significant changes in attitudes of corporate leaders, especially in the US and Europe towards climate change. Recent surveys by McKinsey find that 60% of executives find climate to be strategically important with 50% of executives ranking it as one of the top three issues in 2008 (a 20% increase compared to 2006) . Our Tyndall Centre team has been exploring the role of non-nation state actors in climate governance including an attempt to assess the material sum of these commitments, and the reasons why companies and cities make these voluntary commitments. While we found it almost impossible to add up the commitments because of variations in reporting it is clear that many corporations and local governments have gone far beyond international and national requirements in setting targets of reducing emissions by 10 to 80%. Research by our Tyndall group suggests both economic and ethical reasons for these pledges and an important role for leadership. UK FTSE 75% of UK GHG. Five factors – profit (e.g. through energy savings), competition for credibility and policy leverage, fiduciary obligation, reducing risk of climate change impacts (e.g. insurance) and ethics. While there are clear direct economic reasons for shifts in corporate attitudes and action relating to regulation and carbon markets they are also responding to less tangible risks to corporate reputation, shifts in consumer preferences, and the personal moral and ethical concerns of corporate leaders. Leadership and a sense of vulnerability important in cities.
  • Studies by colleagues in ECI, Tyndall and UKERC working on residential energy demand further the case for human agency in the context of larger economic, institutional and technological change. Research provides important insights into the levers and behaviours that alter household energy use – which, in the UK for example, contributes 27% to overall CO2 emissions. Mc Kinsey estimates that a $40 billion investment in the residential sector globally could abate GT of carbon emissions, (40% in the US and China) with more than 60% of the savings for only $8 billion invested in efficient lighting and appliances (the remainder is for heating and cooling). They highlight barriers to these easy reductions that include fuel subsidies, misaligned incentives, and lack of information to consumers.
  • Information and feedback are certainly one key to reducing household carbon emissions. This graphic from AR4 suggests that the introduction of appliance energy labels in Europe shifted the average purchase from a D to an A or B over a relatively short time period as both consumers and producers responded to the labelling programme saving considerable GHG emissions, but counteracted by larger fridges perhaps.
  • Utility bills that provide information on past energy use, or compare a household to averages for a neighbourhood can produce significant changes in demand and reinforce energy saving behaviour of up to 10%. Experiments with smart meters that provide homeowners with easily visible information on their energy use, cost and emissions can reduce household energy use by 15% through changing habits and stimulating modest investments. Massive behavioral challenge around rebound if cost savings reinvested in consumption that produces GHG in the absence of global cap. New proposals to label other products, including food, with carbon labels or carbon certification are more problematic and need to learn from several decades of experience with nutrition labels and organic certification. For example, consumers find it difficult to decode labels, calculating the amount of carbon in a product is fraught with uncertainty, boundaries for what is included vary widely, and costs of labelling and certification can exclude small producers.
  • My last set of examples of social science insights into responses to climate change focus on the public perception of risk and reactions to various climate change policies. Many scientists are now considering nuclear energy, biofuels, industrial carbon capture and storage and geoengineering (such as atmospheric sulphur injection) as the only scalable solutions to reducing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The obvious barriers to rapid global adoption of these technologies include resources and cost but we can also anticipate public opposition based on research on perception of risk or local impacts. For example research on attitudes to CCS among environmental NGOs finds that although many groups think CCS may be necessary they oppose it because of perceived economic and technical uncertainties, including the risk of major accidents, and because they are suspicious of CCS links to oil and coal industries and that CCS facilities will be located in poor and ethnic communities.
  • Very interesting results from a UK survey of shifts in perceptions of nuclear power in the context of climate change risks. Studies by British researchers, including colleagues in the Tyndall Centre, provide important insights into the public perception of nuclear power as a solution to climate change. They find that while growing proportions of the GB public are indeed prepared to accept nuclear power if it is seen to contribute to climate change mitigation, very few would actively prefer this as an energy source over renewable sources or compared to energy efficiency, given the choice. Risks of nuclear are greater than climate change (35%) New nuclear acceptable if tackles climate change (55%) Nuclear only after other options (73%) Renewables better than nuclear (78%) Energy efficiency better than nuclear (74%) We should not use nuclear because of radioactive waste (44%) 2007 survey showed increased concern about climate change, reduced concern about nuclear, and that 49% felt nuclear might be necessary as a solution. In enthusiasm to report acceptance of nuclear power, media and some nuclear advocates failed to notice that nuclear only acceptable if renewables and energy efficiency implemented first, and that many still saw it as very hazardous. Their findings echo more general results on perceptions of nuclear risks where researchers find continuing concern about the risk of nuclear power to future generations and to public health and where nuclear risks are seen as unknowable and producing feelings of dread. Classic studies by Slovic and colleagues show that the public will perceive technologies as much more risky if they have low probability but high magnitude risks, are associated with cancer or risks to future generations, and are unseeable, complex, involuntary and seen to lack local benefit. Serious problem of lack of trust in govt especially in the UK. Projects are more likely to be socially acceptable when they (1) are locally embedded, (2) provide local benefits, (3) establish continuity with existing physical, social and cognitive structures and (4) apply good communication and participation procedures. Nuclear rebuild in UK, Germany and US will face a tough public reaction especially if first or only option. But Burgess shows importance of deliberation and consultation on nuclear and other technologies.
  • In the UK, local and environmentalist opposition to wind farms has grown to the point where very few proposals make it through the planning process. The backlash against biofuels has created generic opposition to even sustainable and second generation biofuel projects with many Europeans not seeing bioenergy as an environmentally acceptable alternative (Eurobarometer support from 21-75%, stronger in Scandanavia). Research suggests that the public sees wood heating as more acceptable than crop based biofuel such as ethanol. All these cases highlight the importance of understanding the public, and the media, if we are to have a successful response to climate change.
  • Another area where the social response to climate policy is emerging as important is on the question of the role of offsets, including the CDM, in climate mitigation. Offset markets have grown rapidly and include projects for improved woodstoves, renewables, methane capture and forests. The logic for offsetting is that emission reductions, in the developing world for example, are cheaper and faster, and that the atmosphere is uniformly mixed and does not care where emissions are reduced. Greenhouse gas abatement curves suggest that there are large and cost effective emission reductions associated with energy efficiency and forest management, especially in the developing world. This is an area where I have been doing research with colleagues in Tyndall and I could say a lot about it but will make a few brief remarks about this fascinating and highly controversial topic. Criticisms from the media, scientists, and anti-market activists about additionality, transaction costs, development benefits and ethics have all contributed to a crisis of confidence in both the CDM and voluntary offset markets, confusing many who thought they were doing the right thing by compensating for their own emissions through investing in projects elsewhere that slowed growth in GHG and contributed to sustainable development. It is possible that critics of the CDM may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater by not paying attention to the differing reasons that consumers buy offsets, the varying carbon and sustainable development benefits of different offset technologies including forests, the changing governance and regulation of the offset market, by using the case of HFC in China to condemn the whole system and by dismissing the political capital invested in the system. Reform is certainly needed, and offsets would be much more legitimate with a global cap, but it is not clear what the alternatives are for decarbonising the developing world and protecting forests, and whether the public will give up meat, milk and flying or pay a carbon tax rather than consider offsets which may provide cheap reductions with multiple side benefits. If the world is to realise the benefits of offsets, as an albeit interim solution, or dismiss them, then insights from social science are useful in identifying the conditions under which offsets provide sustainable development benefits, the likely reaction to offset standard and certification schemes, and the local and governance barriers to the successful implementation of REDD
  • My last slide highlights one of the most profound changes in the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions that has occurred in my lifetime – the change in fertility rates worldwide that is rapidly reducing the rate of growth in population and may result in a stable population within a few decades. When I began my career the talk was of exponential population growth and of doubling times, and if those trends had continued GHG emission forecasts might be very much higher. Yes I know that 9 billion is still a lot of people, and that many people are consuming more per person but my point is to illustrate how rapidly millions of individuals can chose to change a behavior that has a major environmental impact. Women have chosen, in their millions, to have 2 rather than 6 children and social science has revealed a mix of reasons for these changes ranging from contraceptive options to reduced infant mortality, female education and employment options, and changes in cultural norms driven by TV, secularization and urbanization.
  • I hope I have demonstrated the many ways in which the human dimensions matter in the response to climate change, and that there are important insights from social science as we design local and global solutions to climate change. Let me just highlight a few key findings. The first is that even when attitudes change they may not translate into behaviour unless there are shifts in habits and norms, and unless behavioural change is enabled by changes in infrastructure and institutions. The second is that there are considerable emission reductions to be gained from behavioural changes - both at the level of the individual and the firm and especially in the area of residential energy use. A third is that some of the large scale solutions such as CCS and geoengineering technologies may face considerable barriers in terms of public acceptability. And finally, that important solutions such as the CDM and other offsets may be derailed by overly general criticisms that lack an understanding of the varied social, institutional and ecological landscape.

Diana Liverman   Plenary Speaker   12 March2009 Diana Liverman Plenary Speaker 12 March2009 Presentation Transcript

  • People matter: Human agency and the response to climate change
  • Greenhouse gas abatement curve
  • Surveys of awareness and attitudes
    • Awareness of global warming is high in the industrialized world and many parts of the developing world
    • Many believe it is a very serious problem, caused by humans, that is a threat to their country and families,
    • However awareness is low in some regions (e.g. Middle East, India) and people are somewhat confused about the causes, especially in the US
    • A majority believe action is needed now by governments and by all countries
    • Motivations include negative feelings/affect and egalitarian values (US)
    • (Leiserowitz, 2007. International Public Opinion, Perception, and Understanding of Global Climate Change )
  • How might attitudes translate to behavior?
    • Theories
    • Value – action gap
    • Information deficit model
    • Values-beliefs-norms
    • Social marketing (target groups)
    • Culture and resilience theory
    • Barriers
    • Jackson
    • External conditions (infrastructure, institutions)
    • Social context and norms
    • Lock in to habit and preferences
    • Lorenzoni
    • Lack of knowledge, uncertainty and scepticism, distrust of information sources, externalising blame, technological optimism, distant threat, lower priority, reluctance to change lifestyle, fatalism, my action will not make a difference
    • Governments and industry should act, concern about free riders, consuming norms, lock in and cost
    • Need for credible and meaningful information
    Stern, 2000, Toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior Jackson,2005, Motivating sustainable consumption Lorenzoni,Nicholson-Cole and Whitmarsh. 2007. Barriers perceived to engaging with climate change among the UK public and their policy implications
  • Promoting pro-environment behaviors (Stern 2000)
    • Use multiple intervention types
    • Address contexts that constrain pro environment choices
    • Understand the actors perspective and their tolerance for intervention
    • Build on personal values, social norms and community
    • Monitor and adjust, use participatory methods
  • Public action?
    • What have you done to reduce your impact on climate change?
    • 58% say they turn things off in home
    • 48% buy energy efficient light bulbs
    • 33% buy energy efficient appliances
    • 22% travel more efficiently
    • 15% travel less
    • 8% buy green energy
    • (UK and US, Globescan survey 2007)
    What are you willing to do ?
  • Adaptation www.gecafs.org
  • Corporate action
    • Tyndall study of non nation state actors and climate governance
    • Many corporations making voluntary commitments beyond what is required (but difficult to add up..)
    • Analysis of UK FTSE 100 found that motivations and drivers for committing to carbon management included
      • profit
      • competition for credibility and policy leverage
      • fiduciary obligation
      • reducing risk of climate change impacts
      • ethics
    • C. Okereke, An Exploration of Motivations, Drivers and Barriers to Carbon Management: The UK FTSE 100, European Management Journal, Volume 25, Issue 6, Business, Climate Change and Emissions Trading, December 2007, Pages 475-486
    • McKinsey Quarterly Dec 2007
  • Facilitating behavioral change in the residential sector
  • Consumer/producer response to appliance labels The Impact of the EU Appliance Label (A++ to G, with G being the least efficient) on the Market of Cold Appliances in EU-25. (IPCC, AR4, WG3, Ch60
  • The power of feedback to feed back to lower emissions G. Wood, M. Newborough, Energy-use information transfer for intelligent homes: Enabling energy conservation with central and local displays, Energy and Buildings, Volume 39, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 495-503 Darby, S., The effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption. A Review for DEFRA of the Literature on Metering, Billing and direct Displays, 2006. Boardman, B. 2007. Home Truths: A low carbon strategy to reduce UK housing emissions by 80% . ECI, Oxford Smart meters Smart Bills Carbon labels
  • CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage)
    • Environ. Res. Lett. 3 (2008) 024007 (8pp) doi:10.1088/1748-9326/3/2/024007. Environmental non-government organizations’ perceptions of geologic sequestration. Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Isha Ray and Alexander E Farrell
    UKERC
  • Perceptions of nuclear power and climate change in UK
    • Survey in 2002
    • Concern about unknown consequences (78%), risks to future generations (86%), lack of personal control (88%), unequal exposure to risk (46%), dread (50%), few benefits (90%), high risks (50%), lack of trust in government and industry (65%)
    • Survey in 2007
      • More concern about climate change (82%) and nuclear waste (80%) than nuclear power (58%)
      • 75% or more favoured renewables, only 35% nuclear but accepted (49%) that nuclear might be necessary, only 8% favoured it over renewables
      • Nuclear still seen as unsafe (82%) creating dangerous waste (84%), hazardous to health (70%), and not benefiting communities (89%)
    • K. Bickerstaff, I. Lorenzoni, N.F. Pidgeon,W. Poortinga and P. Simmons Reframing nuclear power in the UK energy debate: nuclear power, climate change mitigation and radioactive waste Public Understand. Sci. 17 (2008) 145–169
  • Issues in new energy technologies Heiskanen et al 2008, Factors influencing the societal acceptance of new energy technologies. http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2007/e07058.pdf Demonstration of success and safety, public ownership Low awareness, NGO, resistance, immaturity, safety concerns CCS Investment at scale, already popular Cost, scale, grid, reliability Solar Local involvement and sensitivity to context Siting issues, equity, intermittency, landscape impacts Wind Local benefits and participation Siting issues, low awareness and regional variation Bioenergy Keys to success Problems
  • Human dimensions of carbon offsets Bumpus and Liverman 2008 Liverman and Boyd 2008 UNEP RISOE Lovell, Bulkeley and Liverman 2009 E&PA Lovell and Liverman 2009 J Pol Econ
  • Fertility change
    • Fertility has fallen dramatically since 1980 especially in Latin America and Asia
    • Reasons include contraceptive availability, later motherhood, education, improved child survival, women’s employment, higher incomes, TV, urbanisation
    • Population now forecast to level off at 9 billion
    John Bongaarts and Rodolfo A. Bulatao Beyond Six Billion: Forecasting the World's Population (2000) Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (CBASSE),USNAS
  •