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Reorienting climate change communication for effective mitigation: forcing people to be green or fostering grass-roots engagement? Dr David Ockwell July 2008

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Reorienting climate change communication for effective mitigation: forcing people to be green or fostering grass-roots engagement? Dr David Ockwell July 2008. Overview. The problem: A climate of urgency The public: Where does behaviour change come in to this?

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slide1
Reorienting climate change communication for effective mitigation: forcing people to be green or fostering grass-roots engagement?
  • Dr David Ockwell
  • July 2008
overview
Overview
  • The problem:
  • A climate of urgency
  • The public:
  • Where does behaviour change come in to this?
  • Current communication efforts
  • Fostering voluntary action
  • Forcing people to be green:
  • Regulating behaviour
  • The politics:
  • Why aren’t politicians regulating behaviour?
  • Implications:
  • A middle way for climate communication
climate change
Climate change
  • EU 2oC target to avoid dangerous climate change
  • Stern Review 2007
    • Stabilisation at 500–550ppm CO2e
  • UK Climate Change Bill 60% reduction by 2050 - based on RCEP (2000) 550ppm CO2 target
    • cited Met Office data suggesting 550ppm CO2 = 2.3oC by 2100
  • IPCC 2007?
global mean surface temperature increase above pre industrial levels ipcc wg1 2007 p 66
Global mean surface temperature increase above pre-industrial levelsIPCC WG1 (2007) p 66.
agency vs structure
Agency vs. structure
  • Infrastructure
    • e.g. existing housing stock, planning
  • Elasticity of demand and availability of substitutes
    • e.g. public transport
  • Institutions
    • e.g. quarterly electricity bills, social norms (cars as status symbols)
  • Socio-technical lock-in
e missions savings from behaviour change
Emissions savings from behaviour change
  • Walking, cycling, using public transport, car sharing
  • Turning off the lights
  • Energy saving light bulbs
  • Not leaving things on standby
  • Turning the heating down and wearing a jumper
  • Recycling / composting
  • Flying less
current communication efforts
Current

communication efforts

communicating behaviour change
Communicating behaviour change
  • ‘Are you doing your bit?’ campaign
  • UK Climate Change Communications Working Group

Developing “a communication strategy to change attitudes towards climate change in the UK”

is it working
Is it working?

Energy demand in domestic and transport sectors (Defra 2006):

  • Residential sector emissions:
      • 1990: 79 MtCO2e
      • 2005: 83 MtCO2e (5% increase)
  • Transport:
      • 1990: 109 MtCO2e
      • 2005: 120 MtCO2e (10% increase)
is it working15
Is it working?
  • Public awareness has increased
    • Only 1% haven’t heard of it
  • Climate change still a low priority
  • Only a minority of public take action to reduce energy consumption

(Defra 2002/Norton and Leaman, 2004/Poortinga and Pidgeon, 2003)

why isn t it working
Why isn’t it working?
  • Issue perceived as removed in space and time
    • BBC 2004: 52% of people in UK believe will have ‘little’ or ‘no effect’ on them personally
    • Energy Saving Trust 2004: 85% UK residents believe effects of climate change will not be seen for decades
why isn t it working17
Why isn’t it working?
  • ‘Attitude-behaviour’ gap
why isn t it working18
Why isn’t it working?
  • ‘Attitude-behaviour’ gap
why isn t it working19
Why isn’t it working?
  • Collective action problem / prisoner’s dilemma / free-rider effect
why isn t it working20
Why isn’t it working?
  • Intractable opinions

e.g. Michael Thompson\'s Cultural Theory - individualists, egalitarians, fatalists and hierarchists

forced behaviour change
Forced behaviour change
  • Overcomes attitude-behaviour gap
  • Overcomes collective action problem
  • Individualists and fatalists have to suck it up
  • Responds to the urgency of the problem
regulated behaviour and encouraging innovation
Regulated behaviour and encouraging innovation
  • Technical innovation in low carbon direction is in anticipation of future regulation of carbon emissions e.g. hybrid vehicle technologies
risks opportunities of carbon constraints source wri 2001
Risks & Opportunities of Carbon ConstraintsSource: WRI 2001

Additional cost per vehicle

DECREASING RISK FROM CARBON CONSTRAINTS

regulated behaviour and encouraging innovation25
Regulated behaviour and encouraging innovation
  • Regulations, or the anticipation thereof, encourage low carbon innovation
  • Social innovation e.g. car clubs, walking buses, community heat and power generation, social energy cost reducing schemes, transition towns
the government gets the science
The government gets the science

Peter Madden (Previously Head of Policy at the Environment Agency; Ministerial Adviser at DETR and DEFRA):

‘I don\'t think that Government inaction on climate change has anything to do with the science.’

the government gets the science28
The government gets the science

John Lawton (Chair, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution):

‘David Miliband has unquestionably grasped the science….Miliband knows urgent action is needed’.

‘It is not just the politicians, the senior [DEFRA] civil servants get the science too.’

the environment as bad politics
The environment as bad politics
  • Electoral cycles vs. climate change
the environment as bad politics30
The environment as bad politics
  • Political capital – a precious resource
  • Fuel protests 2000

‘… it put the fear of God into them and it is used rather too frequently now as a justification for not doing much with transport.’

Sara Eppel, Director of Policy, Sustainable Development Commission

  • Road pricing petition – almost 2 million signatures
  • Press coverage of Climate Change Bill
  • VAT on domestic energy
  • London Mayoral elections
the environment as bad politics31
The environment as bad politics
  • Mid-termism
  • 2005 election: environment = most important issue for only 2% of voters (Whiteley et al 2005: 154)
environmental protection in party manifestos 1959 2005 sources budge et al 2001 and klingemann 2006
Environmental Protection in Party Manifestos 1959-2005Sources: Budge et al (2001) and Klingemann (2006)
additional problems with forcing people to be green
Additional problems with forcing people to be green
  • Ignores excellent examples of grass roots action
  • Unlikely to change values in the long term
    • e.g. attitudes to smoking and congestion changed before legislation
additional problems with forcing people to be green34
Additional problems with forcing people to be green
  • What can you force people to do?
    • Personal carbon trading, rubbish charging, plastic bag tax, differentiated parking charges (Richmond), VED, road pricing, speed cameras/limits
    • Turn off the lights/fill the kettle less/turn heating down?
    • Domestic energy consumption largely infrastructural issue (agency / structure)
learning from past precedents
Learning from past precedents
  • Smoking ban
  • Banning plastic bags in Modbury, Devon
  • Seat belts, drink driving
  • London congestion charge
  • 1970s oil crisis (stickers in Austrian cars)
  • Slavery
implications a new agenda for research on communication
Implications:

a new agenda for research on communication

an insight from social psychology
An insight from social psychology
  • Communication campaigns based on outdated “information deficit model”
  • Behaviour change requires full public “engagement”
  • Engagement has three aspects (Lorenzoni et al 2007, p.446):
    • cognitive
    • affective
    • behavioural

“… it is not enough for people to know about climate change in order to be engaged; they also need to care about it, be motivated and able to take action”

climate communication a middle way
Climate communication: a middle way

Two crucial, but distinct roles for communication:

  • Facilitate public acceptance of regulation
  • Stimulate grass-roots action
climate communication a middle way39
Climate communication: a middle way

Key = affective (emotional) engagement

reorienting the research agenda
Reorienting the research agenda
  • Communicatively smart communication
  • Politically smart communication
communicatively smart communication
Communicatively smart communication
  • Affective communication
  • New approaches that learn from diverse areas including the humanities, arts and marketing
  • Understanding communication in the context of schools
  • Understanding climate “icons”
politically smart communication
Politically smart communication
  • Directed communications aimed at providing rapid feedback to politicians of a change in the public mood
  • What informs politicians’ perceptions of public opinion?
    • Focus groups?
    • Target constituencies?
    • Direct action?
  • When does something become an electoral issue?
  • When does something become party political e.g. the Cameron effect?
  • Ethical issues – researcher vs. activist
conclusion
Conclusion
  • Regulating people’s behaviour is an important, effective option in the context of the urgency of climate change (remain aware of agency/structure issue)
  • Still a role for grassroots action
  • Goes to the very heart of our beliefs about the boundaries of public and private, the limits of state control, and the rational behaviour of individuals
conclusion44
Conclusion
  • Middle way for climate communication that is politically and communicatively smart
  • Centrality of affective engagement
  • Environment as good politics, not bad politics
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