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Behavioural Meetup
Guest Speaker: Prof. Lorraine Whitmarsh
Think global, act local?
Perceptions of and behavioural respons...
Think global, act local?
Perceptions of and
behavioural responses to
climate change
Prof. Lorraine Whitmarsh
Cardiff Unive...
Climate change – far and near
Climate change and human behaviour
11%
13%
2%
1%
20%
18%
10%
8%
6%
4%
7%
Government expenditure
Capital investment
Educati...
Climate change: political response
Climate change: public response
Capstick, Whitmarsh, Poortinga, Pidgeon & Upham, 2014
Worry about climate
change (US publi...
Climate change is perceived as a distant risk
Q. How serious a threat is climate change to…
O’Neill & Nicholson-
Cole, 200...
What influences our
perceptions of climate
change?
Direct experience and climate change perceptions
•Direct experience usually more important for shaping risk
perceptions th...
Direct experience is mediated through values
Clayton et al., 2015. Nature Climate Change
“Much diversity in [public] under...
Why are some people sceptical
about climate change?
Climate change attitudes are ideological
Whitmarsh, 2008; 2011; Corner et al, 2012; Lewandowsky & Whitmarsh, 2014; Xenias ...
• Values (individualism, right-of-centre politics) and behaviour (energy-
intensive lifestyles) are significantly correlat...
Study 1. Materials
Scientists warn of UK climate risks
Britain will experience water shortages and flooding by the end of ...
Study 1. Scepticism as identity threat response
• Perception of climate risks DECREASED and climate scepticism
INCREASED w...
Does it matter what
other people are doing
(and who they are)?
Climate change as a collective problem
Most psychological research on climate change perceptions
and action has focused at...
Climate change as a moral problem
Perceived fairness is key to perceptions of climate change action
• Qual. work on climat...
Study 2. Methods
• 2 x 2 between-subjects (Study 1: N=129; Study 2:
N=333; Study 3: 229):
• Exemplar status (high = busine...
Study 2. Results
Sweetman &
Whitmarsh, 2016
How can we encourage
low-carbon, climate-
resilient lifestyles?
Attitude-behaviour gap… and HUGE challenge
•99% awareness of climate change
•Most understand the role of human behaviour i...
Individual behaviour and climate change
Whitmarsh & O’Neill, 2010
0 20 40 60 80 100
Write to your MP about an
environmenta...
Barriers to climate change action
• Climate change is a distant threat
• Other things are more important
• Uncertainty and...
How can we change behaviour?
Downstream – influencing individuals
- information/advertising
- modelling (social learning) ...
Towards low-carbon lifestyles
• Limited success of behaviour change policies
• Piecemeal, individualistic, consumer approa...
Taking up a new environmental behaviour may lead to adoption
of additional, environmentally beneficial, behaviours
• From ...
Study 3. Does installing insulation lead to spillover?
Postal survey
(N=736) of residents
in three socially
diverse wards ...
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Before After
Wales
England
Study 4. Impact of the Welsh carrier bag charge
‘How often do ...
Other environmental behaviours (% saying ‘always’; Wales only)
0 20 40 60 80 100
Buy products with less packaging
Walk or ...
Need for relational studies and holistic interventions
Targeting interventions
• High-emitting groups (e.g., high
earners,...
Need for relational studies and holistic interventions
Unexpected outcomes
from interventions
• Recent US study found taki...
Conclusions
• Climate change is a problem of human behaviour
• It is a political issue – values (not experience or knowled...
Thank you
WhitmarshLE@cardiff.ac.uk
meetup.com/behavioural/
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Behavioural Meetup: "Think global, act local? Public engagement with climate change and low-carbon lifestyles"
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Behavioural Meetup: "Think global, act local? Public engagement with climate change and low-carbon lifestyles"

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Our spreaker for the February 2016 Behavioural Meetup in Bristol was Prof. Lorraine Whitemarsh from the University of Cardiff.

Despite scientific consensus about the reality and severity of climate change, the public appears to show relatively little concern about the issue and to be taking few actions to tackle it. In this talk, we will discuss what influences public perceptions and how they may be shaped by communication. Recent survey and interview data, and findings from psychological experiments will be used to expose the strong ideological and social influences on public attitudes to climate change. Research will also be presented on low-carbon lifestyles, along with insights into fostering behaviour change, including new research to achieve behavioural ‘spillover’ (i.e., when changing one behaviour leads to further behavioural changes).

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Behavioural Meetup: "Think global, act local? Public engagement with climate change and low-carbon lifestyles"

  1. 1. Behavioural Meetup Guest Speaker: Prof. Lorraine Whitmarsh Think global, act local? Perceptions of and behavioural responses to climate change
  2. 2. Think global, act local? Perceptions of and behavioural responses to climate change Prof. Lorraine Whitmarsh Cardiff University & Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
  3. 3. Climate change – far and near
  4. 4. Climate change and human behaviour 11% 13% 2% 1% 20% 18% 10% 8% 6% 4% 7% Government expenditure Capital investment Education Communications Recreation and leisure Food and catering Space heating Household Clothing and footwear Commuting Health and hygiene UK carbon footprint, by functional use (Druckman & Jackson, 2010) •76% of UK emissions can be attributed to households
  5. 5. Climate change: political response
  6. 6. Climate change: public response Capstick, Whitmarsh, Poortinga, Pidgeon & Upham, 2014 Worry about climate change (US public)
  7. 7. Climate change is perceived as a distant risk Q. How serious a threat is climate change to… O’Neill & Nicholson- Cole, 2009 0.00 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 you people in local community people in UK people in other countries animals and plants in local area an and in not serious very serious 0.00 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 you people in local community people in UK people in other countries animals and plants in local area an and in not serious very serious • Optimism bias • Temporal discounting, psychological distance
  8. 8. What influences our perceptions of climate change?
  9. 9. Direct experience and climate change perceptions •Direct experience usually more important for shaping risk perceptions than second-hand (mediated) information (Slovic, 2000) •But… no difference between flood victims and non-flood victims in perceptions of climate change (Whitmarsh, 2008) •But we experience weather, not climate (change); and the issue is highly politicised… so direct experience not persuasive by itself Whitmarsh, 2008
  10. 10. Direct experience is mediated through values Clayton et al., 2015. Nature Climate Change “Much diversity in [public] understanding can be attributed not to what we learn about climate change but to how, and from whom, we learn: the sources of our information and how we evaluate those sources” E.g., •People who believe climate change is not happening are less likely to remember (accurately) that they had experienced a warmer-than-usual summer during the previous year (Howe & Leiserowitz, 2013)
  11. 11. Why are some people sceptical about climate change?
  12. 12. Climate change attitudes are ideological Whitmarsh, 2008; 2011; Corner et al, 2012; Lewandowsky & Whitmarsh, 2014; Xenias et al., submitted Demographics0 1 2 3 4 5 Green Lib Dem Labour Conservative UKIP SNP BNP F(12,1472)=10.85, p<.001 Climate scepticism score Political affiliation:
  13. 13. • Values (individualism, right-of-centre politics) and behaviour (energy- intensive lifestyles) are significantly correlated with scepticism • Denial can be a coping response to threatening information (e.g., Carver et al., 1989) • Is climate scepticism an identity protective response to threatening information. i.e., would people believe in climate change if it didn’t threaten their way of life/identity? • Two studies: hypothetical risk (student sample) and climate change (UK sample), comparing risk info. with vs. without behaviour change message Study 1. Is scepticism a defence against threatening info? Xenias et al, under review
  14. 14. Study 1. Materials Scientists warn of UK climate risks Britain will experience water shortages and flooding by the end of the century if temperatures are left unchecked, analysis shows. Nearly 18 million British people will experience more water shortages and 160,000 will be affected by coastal flooding by the end of the century if temperatures are left unchecked, according to new analysis. The data, which was launched at the UN climate talks in Durban, shows all 24 countries included in the report have warmed since the 1960s and the frequency of extremely warm temperatures has increased, while very cold temperatures have become less frequent. The latest warning on the impacts of climate change comes in the wake of one of the driest years on record in some parts of Britain. Many areas are likely to see an increase in the frequency of droughts and water scarcity, the report says. In the worst-case scenario painted in the report, food production could decline dramatically in many parts of the world. The new analysis suggests climate change could be worse than previously thought. By the end of the century, it says, about 49 million more people could be at risk from coastal flooding due to sea level rises. "Life for millions of people could change forever. This makes the challenge of reducing emissions ever more urgent," said UK climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne. Substantial cuts in carbon emissions could come from changing our behaviour. Ministers are currently considering proposals to drastically reduce transport and energy consumption. These proposals could mean 80% reduction to travel and similar cuts in energy used in homes. Prices for many products will probably increase under the new plans, while certain products will be phased out altogether. “Britain will experience water shortages and flooding by the end of the century if temperatures are left unchecked, analysis shows... Food production could decline dramatically …” Behaviour change [no BC] condition: “Substantial cuts in carbon emissions could come from changing our behaviour [changing the way products are made]. Ministers are currently considering proposals to drastically reduce transport and energy consumption [transform transport and energy supply]. These proposals could mean 80% reduction to travel and similar cuts in energy used in homes. Prices for many products will probably increase under the new plans, while certain products will be phased out altogether [introduce new transport technologies and home appliances. These new plans will mean alternative energy sources will be funded and industry processes will be transformed].” N=1,505, UK representative sample
  15. 15. Study 1. Scepticism as identity threat response • Perception of climate risks DECREASED and climate scepticism INCREASED when given risk information mentioning need for behaviour change 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 How bad are climate risks? Climate change claims are exaggerated No change Behaviour change F(2,1477)=3.86, p<.05 F(2,1477)=4.79, p<.05 Xenias, Whitmarsh, & Corner, under review
  16. 16. Does it matter what other people are doing (and who they are)?
  17. 17. Climate change as a collective problem Most psychological research on climate change perceptions and action has focused at the individual level • Policy / campaigns also often focus on individual responsibility Yet climate change is a fundamentally collective problem • Social / commons dilemma; cf. diffusion of responsibility • Perceived lack of action by others and low self-efficacy Sweetman & Whitmarsh, 2016
  18. 18. Climate change as a moral problem Perceived fairness is key to perceptions of climate change action • Qual. work on climate change perceptions shows morality and esp. equity are central themes (Whitmarsh, 2009) - those with more power, wealth, liability (industry, US, rich…) should take more responsibility • Acceptability of (climate change) policies determined by equity and fair distribution of costs (Upham et al., 2009); cf. psychological models of political action (van Zomeren et al., 2008) • Progressive policies which require more from those more responsible/able to act expected to be fairer, thus more acceptable Research Questions: 1. Is willingness to act on climate change predicted by perceived fairness or efficacy of the behaviours? 2. Do others’ actions influence willingness to act via the fairness and efficacy pathways? Does social status or group membership of these others matter? Sweetman & Whitmarsh, 2016
  19. 19. Study 2. Methods • 2 x 2 between-subjects (Study 1: N=129; Study 2: N=333; Study 3: 229): • Exemplar status (high = business CEOs vs. low = homeless people) x • Exemplar group identity (ingroup = British vs. outgroup = US) Latest scientific findings provide further evidence of the significant risks posed by climate change for humans and ecosystems. We are interested in your views on actions to tackle climate change. Recently the US chamber of commerce, a body representing US business [The Big Issue UK, a street newspaper sold by homeless individuals in Britain] has introduced a climate change scheme whereby CEOs and other well-paid US business executives [homeless individuals selling the newspaper] will pay 15% of their annual salaries to the US CC [Big Issue] action on climate change project. The project has received broad support from US CC members [the homeless individuals selling the Big Issue]. Importantly, this project invests in developing technologies and services (e.g., renewable energy technology, energy efficiency projects, environmental management services) that are vital to tackling climate change. Sweetman & Whitmarsh, 2016
  20. 20. Study 2. Results Sweetman & Whitmarsh, 2016
  21. 21. How can we encourage low-carbon, climate- resilient lifestyles?
  22. 22. Attitude-behaviour gap… and HUGE challenge •99% awareness of climate change •Most understand the role of human behaviour in causing climate change, and think it should be tackled •BUT very limited behaviour change (mostly ‘small and painless’) Whitmarsh, 2009; cf. Lorenzoni et al., 2007
  23. 23. Individual behaviour and climate change Whitmarsh & O’Neill, 2010 0 20 40 60 80 100 Write to your MP about an environmental issue Avoid eating meat Cut down on the amount you fly Buy environmentally-friendly products Walk, cycle or take public transport for short journeys (<3 miles) Recycle % always or often taking action
  24. 24. Barriers to climate change action • Climate change is a distant threat • Other things are more important • Uncertainty and scepticism • Reluctance to change lifestyles • Externalising responsibility and blame • Lack of knowledge about causes, consequences, potential solutions • Distrust in information sources • “Drop in the ocean” feeling • Fatalism (too late to act/ can’t do anything) • Technology will save us Individual barriers Social and structural barriers • Inaction by governments, business, industry • Free-riding (policy preference for voluntary measures) • Social norms and expectations • Lack of enabling initiatives and facilities (e.g., regular public transport) Lorenzoni, Nicholson-Cole & Whitmarsh. 2007
  25. 25. How can we change behaviour? Downstream – influencing individuals - information/advertising - modelling (social learning) and norm-based approaches Upstream – influencing context/situation of action - economic measures - education (and changing social norms) - changes to available products and services - changes to built environment • Both downstream and upstream required to address multiple barriers to lifestyle change (‘nudge’ techniques insufficient) • Participatory democracy to involve public in policy design Verplanken & Wood, 2006; Clayton et al., 2015
  26. 26. Towards low-carbon lifestyles • Limited success of behaviour change policies • Piecemeal, individualistic, consumer approaches dominate
  27. 27. Taking up a new environmental behaviour may lead to adoption of additional, environmentally beneficial, behaviours • From behaviour change to lifestyle change • Theoretical support (e.g., self-perception theory) – but no coherent theory • Some empirical support in health (Ross & Thow 1997), consumption (Simonin & Ruth 1998) and environmental (Whitmarsh & O’Neill, 2010) behaviours – but small samples, correlational, geographically limited Behavioural spillover
  28. 28. Study 3. Does installing insulation lead to spillover? Postal survey (N=736) of residents in three socially diverse wards in Monmouthshire, Wales, in January 2013 Whitmarsh et al., 2014 Yes No p (n=618) (n=104) Energy-saving measures A-rated appliances 51% 45% n.s. Energy monitor 11% 6% n.s. Low-energy light bulbs 91% 86% n.s. Double glazing all windows 78% 43% *** Double glazing some windows 16% 23% n.s. Draught proofing on windows/doors 25% 12% ** Timer to control heating system 89% 67% *** Thermostat for heating system 84% 63% *** Heating in the home (% always/often) Turn off heating when not in use 82% 77% n.s. Put on more clothes rather than turning up heating 50% 50% n.s. Electricity use in the home (%always/often) Turn off lights when not in use 93% 83% *** Only boil the kettle with as much water as you need 83% 72% ** Avoid using energy at peak times (e.g. evenings) 22% 27% n.s.
  29. 29. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Before After Wales England Study 4. Impact of the Welsh carrier bag charge ‘How often do you take your own bag/s to the supermarket?’ %always Poortinga et al., 2013 N=1000 pre + 1000 post; telephone survey Sept 2011 & April 2012
  30. 30. Other environmental behaviours (% saying ‘always’; Wales only) 0 20 40 60 80 100 Buy products with less packaging Walk or cycle short distance Repair or maintain an item to avoid buying something new Wash clothes at 30 degrees or less Turn off tap while brushing your teeth Buy energy-saving light bulbs Recycle household waste Before After Poortinga et al., 2013 Study 4. Impact of the Welsh carrier bag charge
  31. 31. Need for relational studies and holistic interventions Targeting interventions • High-emitting groups (e.g., high earners, sub-urbanites) • Leisure/recreation practices • Organisations – e.g., telecommuting scheme led to 66% drop in vehicle miles • Context change moments (habit discontinuity) Relational approaches • Avoiding rebound effects • Behavioural spillover literature highlights potential for broader lifestyle change (e.g., Whitmarsh & O’Neill, 2010) Capstick et al., 2015
  32. 32. Need for relational studies and holistic interventions Unexpected outcomes from interventions • Recent US study found taking your own bags to the supermarket led to increase in purchase of organic food… and of unhealthy snacks! (Karmarker & Bollinger, 2014) • Moral licensing effect??
  33. 33. Conclusions • Climate change is a problem of human behaviour • It is a political issue – values (not experience or knowledge) drive perceptions • More climate change information will not persuade the most sceptical groups • Climate change messages can be deeply threatening – need to reframe • Willingness to act is influenced more by moral than ‘rational’ factors (e.g., efficacy) • Willingness to act also depends on the actions of (high status) others • Spillover may be a way to achieve more ambitious low-carbon lifestyle change – if circumstances are right (e.g., priming identity) • Contextual factors may still be a stronger influence – hence, need for structural interventions to achieve radical change (including adaptation) • Interventions should be targeted to high-emitting practices and sub- groups, organisations and critical moments • Lifestyles are a ‘system’ – consider unintended consequences from interventions and dynamics/relationships across individual behaviours
  34. 34. Thank you WhitmarshLE@cardiff.ac.uk
  35. 35. meetup.com/behavioural/ Brought to you by:

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