Actual press release headline: Sexy ideas won’t slow climate change if people don’t buy in and buy them

From MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY and the P.T. Barnum department, via Eurekalert, comes this actual headline that made me chortle, then I read the money quote: “But so far there is almost no funding” and the purpose of this inane press release became crystal clear. Josh was right.

Sexy ideas won’t slow climate change if people don’t buy in and buy them

As governments and researchers race to develop policies and technologies to make energy production more sustainable and mitigate climate change, they need to remember that the most sophisticated endeavors won’t work if they’re not adopted.

That’s the viewpoint of Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University professor of sociology and environmental science and policy, and co-editors in “Towards a science of climate change and energy choices,” their introduction to a new collection of papers on how to address the linked problems of energy sustainability and climate change jointly published by the journals Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change on May 9. Dietz is also a faculty member in the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

'The social sciences know a lot and we know what to do next to help with the climate and energy problems,' said Michigan State University professor Thomas Dietz. 'But so far there is almost no funding. One estimate is that the United States invests less than 3 percent of the funds it puts into energy hardware research into social science energy research. But if technologies don't get adopted and used, they don't have any impact.' CREDIT South Bend Voice/Flickr

‘The social sciences know a lot and we know what to do next to help with the climate and energy problems,’ said Michigan State University professor Thomas Dietz. ‘But so far there is almost no funding. One estimate is that the United States invests less than 3 percent of the funds it puts into energy hardware research into social science energy research. But if technologies don’t get adopted and used, they don’t have any impact.’ CREDIT South Bend Voice/Flickr

“The special issue was prompted in part by the Paris Agreements where 177 countries have agreed to take action on climate change,” Dietz said. “To meet the goals set by those agreements, we will need to draw on what we know about human behavior, about how organizations work, about how policies unfold. Insights from the social sciences can help achieve those goals and at the same time help insure that people throughout the world have access to affordable energy.”

The two linked special issues bring together an international group of social scientists to reflect on the state of the art in energy social science research. The topics covered are broad:

  • how best to structure international treaties on climate change
  • how to encourage more energy efficiency by households and organizations
  • how communities react to new energy facilities like wind farms

Dietz, along with co-editors Benjamin Sovacool and Paul Stern, synthesize the papers in the special issue.

“The overall message is that we know enough to have much more effective policies on energy use and climate change, and that the design of sound policies has to be based on social science research,” Dietz said. “The starting point for most policies and programs is to assume people make carefully thought out decisions with all the information they need. But we don’t usually do that — we are busy, some of the tradeoffs we have to make are complicated, and it can be hard to get the information we need. So we have to design policies for real people and real organizations. We have to make it easy to make the best choice.”

Dietz also pointed out that people are not just consumers when it comes to energy. They are also citizens, neighbors, members of a community and likely work in organizations. There are many ways and places people can influence decisions about energy use, from buying products from companies that pledge sustainability, to voting for politicians who offer tax incentives for residential solar panels.

Dietz has been studying energy since the 1970s. He is known for his leadership of the behavioral wedge studies demonstrating that simple, money saving actions by households could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7 percent.

“The social sciences know a lot and we know what to do next to help with the climate and energy problems,” Dietz said. “But so far there is almost no funding. One estimate is that the United States invests less than 3 percent of the funds it puts into energy hardware research into social science energy research. But if technologies don’t get adopted and used, they don’t have any impact.”

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72 thoughts on “Actual press release headline: Sexy ideas won’t slow climate change if people don’t buy in and buy them

  1. assume people make carefully thought out decisions with all the information they need…..

    …it’s all about tricking us

    • The bellyaching US Republicans don’t get it. It isn’t about them. It isn’t about the lamenting Cruz, it’s about the mass of ordinary people over there ( and here) , sick of being fed the Left or near- Left line: sick of hordes of illegal country shoppers flooding in to be programmed to vote Left: sick of creeping Marxism, sick of spoilt brats ruining universities: sick of genderism and all the perversions it is ushering in: and totally sick of rent seekers grabbing our money , pretending that CO2 is poisoning the world.

      Trump has won because of his opposition to Muslim immigration, illegal immigration, multiculturalism, political correctness and globalization. We want populist nationalism and economic protectionism not multiculturalism and corporatist globalism.

      The bold Trump will clean out the controlling influence established political machinery, political correctness, uncontrolled border incursions, terror threats, feminism and all rubbish the left media scream into peoples ears and living rooms.

      Trump’s success is a finger in the face of the sniveling left who have been exposed for what they are- – nasty untalented opportunistic leeches.

      The Left is deservedly kicked out of peoples lives and the waves of redemption will hit America,ridding us of the progressive socialists in our midst.

      The Left has everything to lose, they have the media, the arts and academia all out rooting for them, if they lose now they have nowhere left to go. The US will finally get a commander in chief who won’t tolerate any more crap from terrorists. I hope this is Reagan 2.0.

      • Unfortunately the Drumpf is a slobbering idiot without the brain power for governing the good ol USA

      • @sunspot

        Who is this Drumpf person you are referencing? There is nobody by that name in the race is there.

  2. …You can actually smell the liberal desperation in the air as their front-runner gets closer to jail !

  3. Translation:
    Send MONEY— and lots of it to:
    Thomas Dietz
    Michigan State University

    • Now wouldn’t it be funny if the whole time these ee-jits are busy “adapting” to “warming,” the next glaciation begins? (NOT funny and it could happen!)

  4. Having spent 4 years teaching at Michigan State I can tell you that the faculty of the Environmental Science and Policy Program, which Dietz co-founded, is one of those groups that creates solutions to problems that are “yet to be discovered.” Dietz, alone, is a sufficient argument for eliminating tenure at most universities.

    • However ridiculous the tenure system is, it isn’t the root of the current strange state of science. The government funding that is very competitive is. After WWII the system of government funding of science was created. That time, some scientists anticipated the future – see, for example, “The Mark Gable Foundation” short story by great and not well-known physicist Leo Szilard. First very abundant in relative terms, the funding dried out (also in relative terms). Let’s put aside discussion of the reasons of relative decrease of funding and concentrate on the fierce competition for funding that started growing. Any competition in a system that has automatic, independent of an individual feedback ensures progress. Such is capitalist economic system, for example. However, very competitive government system for funding of science has no feedback. Indeed, one individual (Program Manager) or some panels of “peers” decides what research proposals to award funding and at the end Program Manager just accepts and files final report. In such system honest scientists can’t survive. Instead the system produces shysters that write “sexy” proposals. These shysters can invent a great sounding “greater impact”, and they are well networked such that they know and befriend the program managers, the panel members and most of the “peers”. These shysters convert professional societies into bunch of cliques. They abuse tenure system by admitting into the tenured ranks only the shysters and in such destroying the higher education system. Now, picture this – a genius submits a proposal… Where would you find peers to judge this proposal? And what this genius would write in the “Greater Impact” section? As we know from the history of science that most of the geniuses had no idea of how useful their ideas were. Thus, no surprise that progress of science started slowing in early 1950s and now stopped completely. Science is dead!

      • I agree. And this applies to more than just scientific research. My own subject, History, has also succumbed. There is no longer a search for truth, but a search for new interpretations which will gain easier publication and thus further research money.

      • Walt –
        I agree with you regarding the atrocities of science and grant funding and I’ll not get started on issues in universities, tenure, cronyism, grants, contracts, indirect costs … I have retired from my last professorship.

        There are other real reasons in the U.S. anyway for higher education abuses in ”research”:
        The White House sets the national research agendas for science and technology:
        https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/rdbudgets

        These not only provide the money to NIH, NSF and others but also the agenda driven “science”. See, for instance, “President Obama Proposes New Funding to Build Resilience of Alaska’s Communities and Combat Climate Change”
        https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/09/fact-sheet-president-obama-proposes-new-funding-build-resilience-alaskas

        There’s lots of ammo for Eric Worrall at that site and I am sure you can imagine the abuses when mixing science with agendas.

        The other real problem I see is clear in this article. This is neither science nor research. There has been no study to discover new data – that is part of what distinguishes research from discovery – new information.

        This article presents purely professed opinion. No more. That it is accepted as research science is galling. What could they possibly need funding for? A new word processor?

      • Bubba Cow-
        Yes, but this is my main point – federal funding of science kills it. The funding in its all entirety should either come from the private sources or it should be distributed “per capita”, i.e. based on the number of scientists, professors, researchers plus overhead. No proposals, no national research agendas, no reporting either… By the way, last year’s “agenda” for funding of Fundamental Research included Advanced Manufacturing. Is that what government thinks is fundamental research?

        Ralph Hayburn- Not surprising at all because all the funding is based on someone evaluating what you propose to do. And it doesn’t matter whether it is physics or history or philosophy, such system kills any innovation in every field.

      • mark May 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        And if you think it is bad in the sciences, just take a look at the humanities!!

        Oh, the humanities!!

        Regards,
        Les Nessman

    • “professor of sociology and environmental science and policy”

      Yep. Didn’t get past that third word before I binned it. These are people who see something work in practise and build careers pointing out that it doesn’t work in theory.

      • Sociology – the study of a group of people that don’t need studying by a group of people who do.

      • These are people who see something work in practise and build careers pointing out that it doesn’t work in theory

        You beat me to it! Sociology departments are a waste of space – it’s just nonsense non-science.

    • How many MSU graduates have had to find work in other states due to the economic down-turn in Michigan?

      And a guy like this is pushing for renewable energy in Michigan.

      Back in 2008-2009 during the auto industry financial crisis, behind the scenes, three NGOs were pushing for much tighter CAFE regulations.

      As reported in a Congressional oversight report all three NGOs were active in Michigan pushing for 25%-30% renewables at that time.

      These same NGOs are involved in divesting and or shutting down the fossil fuel industry and two of these NGOs are affiliated with UNEP.

      Situation is auto industry + fossil fuels take-down in the U.S.

      • Being an agricultural university, MSU is an ideal location to promote renewable energy projects to rural Michigan residents.

        —————————————————————————————-

        There are two NGOs involved in the Alberta tar sands affair that have connections to UNEP.

  5. “We have to make it easy to make the best choice.”
    Translation: “We have to dumb down the lies to make them both understandable and believable by dopey sheeple. Give them just enough carrots so they don’t notice the giant club”. Social science tells them these things.

    • “We need more quickfire boilerplate refutations, accusatory insults and misdirections, stat! The public seems to be catching on and The Great O is leaving office!”

  6. got it:
    social studies = environmental science
    and they profess to being important

    but how does “insure that people throughout the world have access to affordable energy” translate to “new energy facilities like wind farms” ??

  7. Message managers rule, long live message managers. Fact checking and FOIA law compliance are just outdated fads.

  8. What the heck is this guy on about: “reflect on the state of the art in energy social science research”, “United States invests less than 3 percent of the funds it puts into energy hardware research into social science energy research”?!

    @Mark from the Midwest and @Bruce Cobb – 100++

    The fact that this guy has managed to bamboozle enough people for as long as he has just shows how far academia as fallen from any sense of the real world.

  9. I believe you could feed the vast majority of such “social sciences” into the shredder and no one would be any the worse off – or even notice.

  10. ‘“The special issue was prompted in part by the Paris Agreements where 177 countries have agreed to take action on climate change,” Dietz said. “To meet the goals set by those agreements, we will need to draw on what we know about human behavior,……’

    Its rather odd that Dietz should bring up the subject of human behavior here. He himself needs to understand that it is entirely plausible that we humans can be duped, deluded and misled on a massive scale leading to mass hysteria.

    Mass delusion and hysteria has been seen time and again in human history. Nazi Germany, Imperialist and militarist Japan, the Millerite Movement back in the 1830s and 40s, the Y2K bug hysteria back at the turn of the 21st century, etc, etc…. The mainstream mass media today plays a huge roll in this today.

    People like Dietz who learn little or nothing from human history are doomed to to be part of the repetition of its mistakes.

    “The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself…..”

    — “Waterloo” (1974)
    ABBA

  11. If a subject has the word “science” in its title, that is a pretty good indication that it is not actually science.

    • Adding social to a noun is the logical equivalent of adding “not”.
      Ergo social science equals not science
      social justice equals not justice
      and so on

      • Only problem is that if you add these two posts together you get ‘not not science’ = ‘science’. Dammit.

  12. Its an odd thing: they have it right in a sense…

    Right – action to moderate and eventually decrease fossil-fuel energy generation takes all of the countries’ peoples investing in remedial action to the same degree.

    … electively doing precious little gives the Big Investors a socio-economic disadvantage.
    … but that can be balanced with tariffs and import duties.

    Right – That wantonly burning up the essentially irreplaceable fossil fuel ‘ore’ or resource, while dâmned convenient, is also not going to be a limitless resource. Specifically, not so much the burning-of-it is so marvelous, as it is as a feedstock for industry sans-burning. The chemical industry without a doubt depends uniquely and heavily on utilizing the feedstock of petrochemicals cooked off both coking and crude oil distillation.

    Right – That the world can take substantitive action if it collectively wishes to. But the word collective is key. Either we’re all (say “majority of peoples, by population”) in, or the economic disadvantages of going it alone will keep the effort laughably modest, and the pitches particularly hollow and febrile.

    Right – That various forms of action-by-redirecting-money may well have both a moderating influence, and a post-dependency investment influence. We tend to think or say, “let politicians tax, and the proceeds will go to grease palms, enrich toadies, profit the politicos’ friends.

    Right – All the banner-making, peace-outing, sit-inning, slogan-chanting, reach-outing, donation-gathering, pseudo-law making, brow-beating, float-rigging and parade marching … is worth nothing whatsoever unless there really is a “buy in”. Nothing comes of it, except more of the same. We’ve been doing this for 60+ years.

    I’m sure there are a lot of wrongs, but at least there are these rights.

    GoatGuy

    • Regarding your number two; had the world followed such a philosophy from the beginning, we would still be living in caves.
      All advances require the consumption of resources.
      The wealth created by the burning of fossil fuels compensates for their use.
      The idea that our children would be better off if we stopped burning fossil fuels and left it in the ground for them to use is nonsense on stilts.
      First off, our children would be much the poorer thanks to all of the foregone economic growth.
      Beyond that, by following your logic, our children couldn’t use the fossil fuels, since they need to leave them in the ground for their children. Who have to leave it in the ground for their children, and so on till infinity.

    • “There is no such thing.”
      Sure there is. Thomas Dietz has made quite a nice career out of it. No doubt, complaining about the lack of funding and lack of commitment by others the whole time.

  13. “To meet the goals …… to draw on what we know of human behaviour .. etc. …. .
    How about drawing on what we know of climate science?

    No, silly me, this is nothing to do with science.

    • Well he is a sociologist, and therefore he is unable to see his own behaviour in a social context.
      He completely ignores the possibility that his own social conformity has lead him to embrace a complex set of unproven and unprovable theories which he himself does not understand.
      Or that these theories might possibly be generated by “herd behaviour” or skewed incentives.
      None of these sociologist seem willing to contemplate such an interpretation.
      Fear of the gulag, I suppose.

      • Posted this above, but may be more appropriate here:

        Sociology – the study of a group of people that don’t need studying by a group of people who do.

  14. The website “skeptical Science” has a similar article about how to use the right words to sway “deniers” of man- made climate change. Maybe even a modicum of proof in the form of a measurement of how much radiated heat is being captured by the current CO2 presence and its effect on measured temperatures would be more appropriate.

  15. “[B]uy in and buy them”? What does that even mean? They seem to want everyone to buy what they are selling, I guess.
    /snark

  16. Thomas Dietz should write a book about how to design climate policies for real people and real organizations, about how to make it easy to make the best choice – he could call it “My struggle”.

    • He has no time for writing books about his struggle.
      If only we would give him total authority then I’m certain that he has the final solution.

  17. Perhaps more folks would buy into the idea of adapting to climate changes!

    Hasn’t been that hard so far…

  18. Dietz has been studying energy since the 1970s. He is known for his leadership of the behavioral wedge studies demonstrating that simple, money saving actions by households could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7 percent.

    “The social sciences know a lot and we know what to do next to help with the climate and energy problems,” Dietz said. “But so far there is almost no funding. One estimate is that the United States invests less than 3 percent of the funds it puts into energy hardware research into social science energy research. But if technologies don’t get adopted and used, they don’t have any impact.”
    _______________________________________

    Since 1970 Dietz knows households could reduce emissions by 7%.

    But only 3% goes into social science energy research :

    since 1970, 46 years, Dietz had reduced emissions by 3% of 7% when appropriate funded.

    Didn’t happen, Dietz hangs on.

  19. /sarc of

    when social science funding > 3% then emission reduction were 100% of 7%.

    Since 1970, 46 years. Exponential. Didn’t happen, Dietz.

  20. Sexy ideas lead to sex, which leads to more humans, which worsens climate change!

  21. People always talk about fossil fuels. However isn’t there a tremendous amount of methane
    Hydrate in the world, more than coal and gas deposits combined. I believe we will not run out of ways to power our civilization if we think rationally and act accordingly.

  22. The reality is that the climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. If CO2 really affected climate then the change in CO2 over the past 30 years should have caused a noticeable change in the natural lapse rate in the troposphere but that has not happened. Before they start worrying about following a plan to control climate they have to come up with a plan to intimidate the sun and the oceans to provide the optimum climate. They do not even know what the ideal climate is let alone how to force Mother Nature to provide it.

  23. You can learn more about the goals of sociology in this NSF funded paper, written by sociologist including Dietz. I’ve just skimmed through a few pages. What I have read so far seems to be just a bunch of very predictable questions. But, I did finally find some clear stated goals:
    “Increase the presence of sociologists in local, national, and international research and decision-making by clearly articulating the distinct contribution of sociological approaches, research questions, and contributions to climate change research.
    Provide funding opportunities to develop and conduct research projects that investigate the human dimensions of global climate change broadly defined, including small grants to encourage new projects, new investigator awards, and funding to develop collaborations, convene workshops, and offer short courses in new techniques for studying the human dimensions of climate change.”

    In short – 1. give us more power. 2. give us more money.
    Ever since Social Studies changed its name to The Social Sciences – they have been trying to pass themselves off as real “scientists”, and now they want to get involved with scientific subjects which are completely outside of their range of expertise and competence.
    It is saddening to see that the National Science Foundation is funding this brain-vomit.
    http://www.asanet.org/research/NSFClimateChangeWorkshop_120109.pdf

    • Page 70 of that pdf file (post above), is:
      “The Conservative Assault on Climate Science: A Successful Case of Deconstructing Scientific Knowledge to Oppose Policy Change.”
      Apparently sociologists need to deconstruct the skeptics case against climate science.
      It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they might consider deconstructing the mainstream climate science “message”. Or deconstucting the life’s work of Hansen, Schneider, Mann or Gore. No, no. All of a sudden they are only allowed to deconstruct the “skeptical” viewpoint.
      I thought that science itself was a social constructed modern myth!!! At least according to this bunch of fools.

    • My experiences with the social science field is that they spend a very high percentage of their time in justification of their field as a science. My first exposure to this was in the 70’s in my first social science elective at university. Coming from a math and science background, I found it odd that so much time was spent in this justification. I find that this has continued throughout my exposure to the social sciences. One of the initial statements made by Mr. Dietz is an indication of that justification – “The social sciences know a lot and we know what to do next”…and this is typically followed by “show me the money”.

  24. Perhaps the researchers should check out the CFL mess. People hated the things, so the government outlawed the alternative, incandescent. Still, everyone seemed to hate CFLs. In comes LEDs, not mandated by the government, having no mercury and people liked them. Now, General Electric is shutting down production of the CFLs. Forcing people into making certain choices only works until a real alternative comes along. The middle phase, CFLs, just made people angry and determined to fight the whole “save energy” idea.

    Social science says people are not smart, no savvy, and can be manipulated easily into doing what the government wants. Reality says forcing people to buy things that make no sense is not the road to success. In the end, less energy is used. Now the power company will raise rates and/or fees to make up for it, negating any “save energy, save money” promises. It’s all short-term, crazy ideas. No wonder it fails.

    • At first I bought CFL bulbs rationally. Back in the early 1990’s each one was £12.
      I assessed the potential saving in electricity and bought a few for situations where they would pay back.
      About a decade later the government subsidized these bulbs (to £1 each) and I went a little bonkers and bought an entire box-full. (actually, I still behaved rationally but in response to irrational pricing.)
      Now I still have most of a box-full, but I am already switching to LED.
      What will happen to all my unused CFL’s?
      Maybe I should release them back into the wild.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobra_effect

      • The one use for CFLs versus incandescent I found is for power outages—I have five CFLs in a lamp which I can plug into my backup battery system and use very little electricity. LEDs are better yet, but I’m watching for the prices to drop even further. I, too, have several CFLs left and will use them up slowly while switching to LED. I also stocked up on incandescent before they stopped manufacturing them to use for keeping reptiles warm and my well house from freezing up. There were some uses for CFLs in some situations (another was where it was tough to get to the light fixture, like in a very high hallway—again LEDs are even better there), I just object to the government’s one-size-fits-all mentality.

      • That’s why I ended up using them for my entire house.
        I am off the grid and run on lead-acid batteries for long periods whilst I am not running a generator.
        CFL were a great blessing for me and my family.
        LED – even more so.
        The great advantage of LED is the simple fact that the light can be projected specifically onto the thing that you wish to see.
        Especially with the LED equivalents of the old halogen reflectors, MR16 and GU10.
        So, for example, just 3 watts of directional LED warm white is plenty enough to illuminate my desk and keyboard.
        I’m actually a life long fan of renewables and energy efficiency.
        Where formerly I might have been using 40-60watts overhead I am now happily typing with only 3watt illumination. All good in my view.

  25. As sociologists, they must surely have noticed that broadly in almost all classes, genders, castes, racial or religious groups (apart from the severely mentally defective), the people of this planet invariably believe that they know what to do next and how to solve the problems of the world.
    I too, believe that I would know how to solve the problems of the world.
    But, so does my Jehovah’s Witness friend at work. And that causes me to reflect on whether my own self-confidence is on similarly shaky foundations.
    Here in the U.K. casual discourse on topical issues among even poorly-educated working class folk, is self-described as “putting the world to rights”.
    In other words the basic assumption behind such conversations is that “we would know what to do next”.
    This is true, also of other cultures. Take for example at the Islamic Fundamentalist – he knows what to do next. And he knows what is necessary for the world. He acts with total confidence in his own purpose and mission. In spite of access to modern education – or the lack of it.
    Intriguingly, Mr Dietz, holds that he knows what to do next, and states this with confidence, even though he himself is a mere sociologist.
    He chose to study an entirely non-mathematical and frankly non-scientific, twaddle based subject, but believes that he is equipped to solve the problems of the world.
    As a sociologist he should have taken the time to notice that this means that he is just like everybody else.

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