Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Vox, one of the most influential emotional levers available to promote compliance with the climate conservation agenda is guilt about hurting children.
Why humans are so bad at thinking about climate change
How psychology can trick us into keeping Earth habitable.
Updated by Andy Murdock, University of California Apr 19, 2017, 9:10am EDT
When Per Espen Stoknes looked at polls going back to 1989 assessing the level of public concern about climate change in 39 different countries, he found a surprising pattern in the data.
“Incredibly enough, it shows that the more certain the science becomes, the less concern we find in richer Western democracies,” he said. “How can it be that with increasing level of urgency and certainty in the science, people get less concerned?”
To Stoknes, the dissonance problem might be an even bigger deal: What we actually do every day conflicts with what we know we should do.
“It makes us feel a little bit like hypocrites because I know it’s important, I shouldn’t do this, but yet we do it and we do it all the time, every day: eat meat, drive a car, go by plane,” he said.
While Stoknes concedes that individual actions alone can’t solve the climate problem, he doesn’t buy into the idea that we’re powerless.
“In terms of behavioral change, we need two things,” said Magali Delmas, a professor at the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at UCLA and the Anderson School of Management. “We need first to increase awareness, and then second, we need to find the right motivations for people to change their behavior.”
She’s on the hunt for these motivations, looking for simple ways to make climate change personal.
In a recent study, Delmas and colleagues tested different messaging approaches with consumers to see what could cause them to lower their electricity usage. Some households were sent personalized emails with their monthly power bill telling them how they could save money, while others were told how their energy usage impacted the environment and children’s health.
Money proved to be a poor motivator: It had no effect. But linking pollution to rates of childhood asthma and cancer produced an 8 percent drop in energy use, and more than double that in households with kids.
The following is the abstract of the Delmas study referenced by Vox;
Nonprice incentives and energy conservation
In the electricity sector, energy conservation through technological and behavioral change is estimated to have a savings potential of 123 million metric tons of carbon per year, which represents 20% of US household direct emissions in the United States. In this article, we investigate the effectiveness of nonprice information strategies to motivate conservation behavior. We introduce environment and health-based messaging as a behavioral strategy to reduce energy use in the home and promote energy conservation. In a randomized controlled trial with real-time appliance-level energy metering, we find that environment and health-based information strategies, which communicate the environmental and public health externalities of electricity production, such as pounds of pollutants, childhood asthma, and cancer, outperform monetary savings information to drive behavioral change in the home. Environment and health-based information treatments motivated 8% energy savings versus control and were particularly effective on families with children, who achieved up to 19% energy savings. Our results are based on a panel of 3.4 million hourly appliance-level kilowatt–hour observations for 118 residences over 8 mo. We discuss the relative impacts of both cost-savings information and environmental health messaging strategies with residential consumers.
As a lifelong asthmatic I’m horrified that climate advocates are using what is in my opinion misleading information about childhood asthma to promote their political agenda.
CO2 is not an asthma trigger.
Pollution – smoke, car exhaust, pollen, etc. – is a trigger, but in my experience, the quickest way to make many asthmatics like myself sick is to “conserve” energy by turning down the household central heating. As the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America confirms, Cold air is a significant trigger of asthma attacks.