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Workshop on Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change
Through the Behavioral and Social Sciences
National Research Council
December 3-4, 2009
National Academy of Sciences
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C.
This workshop, the first of two sponsored at the National Academies by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will include four half-day sessions devoted to the following topics of pressing interest:
• Public Understanding of Climate Change
• Opportunities for Climate Change Mitigation by Household Action
• Public Acceptance of Energy Technologies
• Organizational Change and the Greening of Business
Each session will begin with presentations of current knowledge by leading social and behavioral researchers and will proceed to discussions of the practical implications of the knowledge for action by governmental and non-governmental organizations tasked with responding to climate change. It is hoped that the discussions will stimulate participants to undertake future activities, such as new policies, programs, or research activities, to develop and implement insights arising from the workshop.
Panel on Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change
Through the Behavioral and Social Sciences
Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change
Roger E. Kasperson (chair), George Perkins March Institute, Clark University
Richard N. Andrews, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina
Michele M. Betsill, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University
Stewart J. Cohen, Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia
Thomas Dietz, Department of Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University
Andrew J. Hoffman, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
Anthony Leiserowitz, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
Loren Lutzenhiser, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
Susanne C. Moser, Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Santa Cruz, CA
Gary W. Yohe, Department of Economics, Wesleyan University
Paul C. Stern, study director
Session #1 – December 3, 2009
9am – 12:30 pm
Public Understanding of Climate Change
Climate change as a phenomenon has attributes that make it is extremely difficult for non-specialists to understand. For example, although people typically rely on their senses and personal experience to assess conditions in the external environment, these sources are a poor guide to whether the global climate is changing or to the effects of such change. People often apply cognitive short-cuts to make sense of complex topics, but doing this with climate change easily promotes misunderstanding. The short-cut of relying on trusted sources of information is problematic because conflicting information sources claim expertise on climate change. The polarization of U.S. public opinion on climate change can be traced to such social and psychological processes.
This session will present the current state of knowledge about how non-specialists attempt to comprehend climate change and why public opinion has become increasingly polarized, even as scientific opinion has become less so. It will conclude with discussion of what might be done about this situation—in education, in the mass media, and through the communication efforts of the nation’s scientific community.
Welcoming comments, Roger Kasperson, Clark University, Panel Chair
Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale University, Session Moderator
Why is climate change hard to understand? – Susanne Moser, SM Consulting (tentative)
Mental models of climate change – Daniel Read, Yale University
Insights from research on risk perception – Elke Weber, Columbia University (tentative)
The polarization of public opinion – Riley Dunlap, Oklahoma State University
Comment and discussion topics
--Implications for climate change education
--Implications for the mass media
--Implications for scientific communication
Frank Niepold, Climate Program Office, NOAA (invited)
Bud Ward, Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media
Session #2 – December 3, 2009
1:30 – 5:00 pm
Opportunities for Limiting Climate Change through Household Action
The most commonly proposed strategies for limiting climate change—developing low-carbon energy technologies and creating systems that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions—are likely to take a decade or more to yield appreciable reductions. Changing the adoption and use of existing technology can yield savings much faster if the requisite behavioral changes can be brought about.
This session will focus on the potential in the household sector—direct energy use in homes and non-business travel—which accounts for about 38% of U.S. energy use. It will present new estimates of the technical and reasonably achievable potential in this sector and knowledge about the effectiveness of various strategies for achieving this potential. It will conclude with discussions of attractive policy options for achieving significant emissions reductions from the household sector in a 5-10 year time scale.
Loren Lutzenhiser, Portland State University, Session Moderator
The national potential for emissions reduction from household action – Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University
Achieving the potential for residential energy efficiency – Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Inducing action through social norms – Wesley Schultz, California State University, San Marcos
Interventions in the supply chain for consumer products and services – Charles Wilson, London School of Economics
Comment and discussion topics
--Economic perspectives on household actions
--Policy opportunities and barriers
Jerome Dion, Buildings Technology Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
(Others to be confirmed)
Session #3 – December 4, 2009 – 9:00 am – 12:30 pm
Public Acceptance of Energy Technologies
Many current proposals for limiting climate change depend on the development and expeditions deployment of new low-carbon energy supply technologies and new technologies for energy efficiency. Past and recent experience make clear that public acceptance often slows these processes, sometimes significantly.
This session will present summaries of knowledge about the conditions under which public acceptance issues have and have not significantly slowed implementation of new technologies, particularly energy technologies, and about the effects of different ways of addressing public concerns. Discussion will focus on the implications for the development and deployment of such technologies as wind power, bio-energy technologies, and carbon capture and sequestration. It will surface ideas about how to reconcile pressures for rapid deployment and for well-informed democratic decision making.
Roger Kasperson, Clark University, Session Moderator
Lessons from the past: Governance of emerging energy technologies - Nicholas Pidgeon, University of Cardiff
Lessons from the past: Addressing facility siting controversies - Seth Tuler, Social and Environmental Research Institute
Public acceptance issues with renewable energy: offshore wind power - Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware
Public acceptance issues with carbon capture and storage – Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Carnegie Mellon University
Comment and discussion topics:
--Implications for managing technology development and introduction
--Implications for reaching carbon reduction goals
--Acceptance issues with other new technologies: bioenergy, geoengineering, etc.
--Can government learn the lessons of past energy technologies?
Robert Marlay, U.S. Climate Change Technology Program
Baruch Fischhoff, Carnegie Mellon University
Session #4 – December 4, 2009 – 1:00 – 5:00 pm
Organizational Change and the Greening of Business
Businesses are major contributors to climate change through their direct use of energy and land and through their effects on the life cycles of goods and services they use, process, and sell. Behavioral evidence shows that significant resistances exist in business organizations to making transitions to “greener” operations that would be economically rational.
This session will begin with presentations on barriers to change in business that have been identified in organizational theory and research and will then move to a discussion of practical knowledge about the greening of business and about barriers to change. It will end with discussions of what businesses, business organizations, and governments can do to facilitate transitions to greener business practices.
Andrew Hoffman, University of Michigan, Session Moderator
Psychological barriers to organizational change – Max Bazerman, Harvard University
Organizational and institutional barriers to change – Royston Greenwood, University of Alberta
Survey results on barriers to change in businesses Clay Nesler, Johnson Controls, Inc.
Roundtable discussion among practitioners:
Andre de Fontaine, Markets & Business Strategy Fellow, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Melissa Lavinson, PG&E
Meg McDonald, Director, Global Issues, Alcoa
Kevin Leahy, Managing Director, Climate Policy, Duke Energy (invited)
Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls, Inc.
Policy possibilities for facilitating organizational change - John Dernbach, Widener College of Law
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