Personal and Public Barriers in Responding to Climate Change

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 1:28 AM GMT on March 14, 2013

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Personal and Public Barriers in Responding to Climate Change

I want to continue on the subject of barriers to the use of information about climate change. In last week’s entry, I wrote about barriers like engineering standards and permitting processes that have not evolved to the point that they are flexible enough to take a changing climate into account. I ended with language barriers and how the political and emotional responses to climate-change knowledge influence language. For example, perhaps it is impossible to talk to city politicians about adaptation to climate change but possible to talk about vulnerability of their seashore to the increasing storm surges of the past 20 years. There is an aspect to the language barriers that is purely political. This charging of language with political purpose happens in any contentious process where there are advocates of different points of view.

I want to leave those political barriers in the realm of hopeless irrationality and explore more general barriers. There has been an enormous amount of effort to communicate about the science of climate change and global warming. I have argued before that polling data suggest that as a community we have actually done quite well in this communication path. A large majority of Americans think that global warming is real and concerning. Recent polling data suggest that a growing number of people are alarmed about climate change (Six Americas in September 2012). Yet there remains the general perception that, as a whole, we are not doing anything. One response to this is to communicate more, to educate more, with the idea that in a participatory democracy such as ours, the ultimate solution comes from the public’s demanding a policy response.

This experience suggests that there must be barriers to the public response of this knowledge of climate change. Often in environmental problems, people identify cost and inconvenience as barriers – think about recycling. In some instances, we try to reduce these barriers through policy to offset the cost or to improve convenience. A couple of years ago, for example, there were many programs of reduced cost or free distribution of compact fluorescent light bulbs. These bulbs use less energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping slow climate change (EPA on compact fluorescents). This is a typical approach that focuses on personal behavior, using essentially marketing techniques. Such approaches can be effective, but generally in a piecemeal way (Meeting Environmental Challenges).

In 2009, a group of my students looked into more systematic ways to instill the use of climate-change knowledge in day-to-day life. Their particular focus was on sustainable communities. They did a lot of analysis of energy and water use, house design, and transportation and then developed guidelines. But one of the ideas that they had in that document was the use of community associations and civic organizations to both promote and provide incentives to take behavior normally associated with individuals and to extend that behavior to communities. There were also ideas to extend across communities through, for example, competitive marketing techniques. One goal of such a strategy is to help reduce the reluctance that individuals might have to taking action in the absence of their neighbors, their social network.

An important finding from this work on building sustainable communities is that knowledge, even in combination with a receptive attitude towards sustainability, is not a strong predictor of whether or not individuals will alter their behavior to take action. Perhaps one could conclude that there is just too much anchoring in our old behavior to change. I know that I will drive by the ATM that takes deposits 10 times, thinking that the branch office has to be open to make a deposit. Perhaps reluctance to act is a matter of cost and convenience; yet in polls of those people with the positive sustainability attitude, they’re willing to pay more and be inconvenienced. These real barriers, small and large, in total retard our response to climate change.

Returning to the beginning and to the idea that communicating and educating more completely will motivate action. Though necessary, this is not sufficient. What is obvious is that there is a convergence of items that motivate any individual to take action. This is formalized in a paper by Hines and others in 1987 entitled Analysis and Synthesis of Research on Responsible Environmental Behavior. In this work, they pose that, in addition to knowledge, there is a need for information about what to do with that knowledge and training on the skills of how to use that knowledge. They state specifically, “The erroneous assumption is often made that skills evolve naturally from knowledge.” These knowledge and skill bases then need to come together with personality factors, including attitude and perhaps situational factors that become motivators for action.

Though this work does not suggest that there is an easy formula for breaking down these barriers, it does suggest training on what to do with the knowledge and the skills on how to do it are as important as the knowledge itself. With an accompanying structure of practice, there is an increased probability that people will take action, which should then beget more action.



Figure 1: Model of Responsible Environmental Behavior – Adapted from Hines and others in 1987 entitled Analysis and Synthesis of Research on Responsible Environmental Behavior. An individual who expresses an intention to take action will be more likely to engage in the action than will an individual who expresses no such intention. However, it appears that intention to act is merely an artifact of a number of other factors acting in combination. Before an individual can intentionally act on a particular environmental problem, that individual must be cognizant of the existence of the problem; this is prerequisite to action. However, an individual must also possess knowledge of those courses of action that are available and will be most effective in a given situation.


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764. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
5:38 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
RickyRood has created a new entry.
763. cyclonebuster
3:20 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
yes pat we are


We know what needs to be done so let's do it.... The ice can't wait..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
762. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
3:00 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting cyclonebuster:
We are on thin ice here. We need to let the heat out of our atmosphere... Y'all with me yet?



yes pat we are
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
761. cyclonebuster
2:07 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
We are on thin ice here. We need to let the heat out of our atmosphere... Y'all with me yet?



Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
760. cyclonebuster
1:56 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


How long would it take?

Once built...
A year or two,it depends on how much "Control Variable" ( CV ) we place in TIC-026 in order to maintain "Set Point" ( SP ).. Computer modeling can tell us more...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
758. Naga5000
1:21 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting spathy:
750. pintada

"The thing to do spathy is to call your senator and demand that they continue the sequester until it triggers a depression. Oh, wait ... they've probably already done that - you're off the hook. :-)"

Just for giggles....
The thing you should do is contact your reps and demand they keep spending money and cover it up by monetizing the dollar. And when it takes a wheel barrel full of worthless money to buy a loaf of bread,tell me how many cranes will be needed to exchange the needed monies to convert to clean energy.

LOL!
NOT!


Scare tactics, there has been zero evidence to support uncontrolled inflation despite the loud folks on the right. Our current economic situation has little to due with debt, inflation, or deficit spending. The main current factor is aggregate demand with a secondary and major factor of increasing economic inequality coupled with gigantic record profits for the super corps. The purchasing power needs to come back to the middle and lower classes and quickly.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 2692
757. cyclonebuster
1:18 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting spathy:


And money for any new research,development,and implementation will come from where?

Your plan sounds kinda like a doomsday plan.
I want no part of that!

Reduced to burning forests and dung,and raw coal.
Is that really what you desire? Because that will be the result. Thats not very clean or Earth friendly,ie Rural China,portions of South America and Africa,not to mention Haiti.

I am all for proving a point by absurd radical conclusions. I get that. But really?
When the latest subject was Practical alternatives?

And I thought I was labeled the radical.... LOL.


Nope there is one plan that gets us out of this... I think you know what I mean. I have shown you all many times... You ready to computer model now?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
756. cyclonebuster
1:16 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting pintada:


Nope!

The best thing that can happen, is a massive nearly total financial crash that will keep that oil, gas and coal in the ground where it belongs. If there is no economic production, there will be no CO2 emissions.

The thing to do spathy is to call your senator and demand that they continue the sequester until it triggers a depression. Oh, wait ... they've probably already done that - you're off the hook. :-)


Nope one thing is better than that... I think you know what I mean...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
755. cyclonebuster
1:13 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


Is that the same place?



Yep!!!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
754. cyclonebuster
1:12 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Keeper,
Reference 737...... Where is 2012 on that graphic????
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
752. cyclonebuster
1:09 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting Neapolitan:
Yes, this spring's Arctic pattern doesn't bode well at all for the ice this coming melt season. Between the anomalous Arctic warmth and the even more anomalous cracking, it's highly likely that 2013 will see even less Arctic ice than remained at the 2012 minimum--if not substantially less. And that, of course, means even more extreme weather come next winter and spring. (That's partly good new for denialists, though; they'll have some more profound regional cold snaps and snowfalls to point to while shouting, "Global cooling! See? Global cooling!!!!")


Only one way to thicken that ice up... I think you all know what I mean by now...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20219
750. pintada
12:42 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting spathy:
Improve the economy and balance our budget. And yes that involves fossil fuels.

Then give incentives too good to resist and rewards for innovation that is so badly needed to remove society from Fossil fuel dependence.

A flat broke nation and World has no hope to change.
That my friend is a PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE to a forced change before the tech is available and boosts the free market and Gov funds needed.


Nope!

The best thing that can happen, is a massive nearly total financial crash that will keep that oil, gas and coal in the ground where it belongs. If there is no economic production, there will be no CO2 emissions.

The thing to do spathy is to call your senator and demand that they continue the sequester until it triggers a depression. Oh, wait ... they've probably already done that - you're off the hook. :-)
Member Since: July 15, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 218
748. Xandra
12:18 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
747. pintada
12:02 AM GMT on March 25, 2013
Quoting bappit:

I think she is a bit overwrought in her assessment and will not convince anyone about climate change who needs to be convinced. They won't buy into the anxiety she ascribes to them.


I'm pretty sure the author of the book is not interested in convincing anyone, though i will grant the "overwrought" assessment. She and her friends are just interested in the phenomenon of denial especially global warming denial.

In fact, they provide some recommendations for someone else that might be interested in convincing others, and authorship of long periphrastic texts is not among them. :-)

Quoting bappit:
The arctic ice is melting and the arctic will continue to warm. We have no way currently of removing the excess CO2 already in the air. We currently have no way of stopping the continued emission of CO2 either. Yes, things are going to get worse. I'm still living fat, dumb and happy. We all are. Do I want to live otherwise? Do I want to bang my head against a wall? Provide a practical alternative.


I'm happy. Its the fat and dumb part that has me confused.

I don't wear a hair shirt (i.e. i have what i need) so I guess that makes me "fat". OK.

But dumb? I'm no genius (my son and wife are, so i know by comparison) if thats what you mean, but i don't think you intended to call me stupid. So if by dumb you mean that i don't keep up with the reality around me, that just isn't true (well ... given my intellectual limitations that is).

I've done the psychological work needed to be a peace with what is happening. If i had not done that work - facing the anger, the fear, the mourning, etc. - i couldn't be happy. So on the dumb part i think you are mistaken.

Regarding the wall banging ... just don't do it. It doesn't sound fun at all. :-)

Quoting bappit:

You really should edit the next comment in your post.

I assume that this is an insult, though i can't be sure or figure why. I intended no disrespect of you. My point was that a person pretending to be a denier (i.e. someone suffering from denial about AGW) is more than likely a denier. Someone who goes to a forum for the expressed purpose of trolling as a denier (as in the alcoholic example) is almost certainly suffering from denial, particularly if they spend their time on denialist sites.

Had to edit this post though cause i just ran across this ...

OMG. Wow, this paper is exactly what I am talking about.
Member Since: July 15, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 218
746. Birthmark
11:59 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
{Arctic Sea Ice Forecast Map}

My, isn't that an optimistic map?
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5212
745. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:43 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
744. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:38 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
743. PedleyCA
11:25 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


This is not your Fathers Canada!
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4926
742. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:20 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
741. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:16 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
739. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:13 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
tar sands not as pretty as you think they are

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
737. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:03 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
736. AlwaysThinkin
10:54 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


If I recall Prudhoe Bay was located in the United States? Please correct me if I am wrong. I am not perfect and make mistakes.


Yep it's up in Alaska. Here's an overview of the whole Arctic Circle region.



Link to a larger image of the map
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 297
735. misanthrope
10:52 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:



Thanks because I am at the 6th or 7th grade level with understanding climate change. I am glad you are giving me such high marks.

Got it. Here I thought you said you had graduated from Stanford University, but now I realize you were probably talking about Stanford Elementary School. Crazy how these misunderstandings come about, isn't it?

Member Since: February 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 532
734. bappit
10:50 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting pintada:
From Weintrobe:
"To feel this uncared for is deeply traumatic and can also lead to unbearable anxiety, born of a feeling of helplessness and aloneness in the face of survival threats. "

I think (but don't know for sure since i do not pretend to be an shrink of any kind) that she was saying that the anxiety is much worse when our government officials abandon us. When i saw the list of Senators that voted for Keystone XL and saw my senator on it, it was like being kicked in the head. Yeah, the "unbearable" part kinda strong, but ... well it depends on the person.

I think she is a bit overwrought in her assessment and will not convince anyone about climate change who needs to be convinced. They won't buy into the anxiety she ascribes to them.

Quoting pintada:
Uh ... No.
Hint: think of a phrase that ends "... and taxes."

Quoting pintada:
Are you in denial (no insult intended), or am I wrong to imagine that we may very well see the first major methane eruption from the continental shelf north of Siberia this summer. One of us has read the tea leaves wrong, and if I am right, you should have some major "existential anxiety like that".

The arctic ice is melting and the arctic will continue to warm. We have no way currently of removing the excess CO2 already in the air. We currently have no way of stopping the continued emission of CO2 either. Yes, things are going to get worse. I'm still living fat, dumb and happy. We all are. Do I want to live otherwise? Do I want to bang my head against a wall? Provide a practical alternative.

You really should edit the next comment in your post.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5561
731. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:37 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
blowing smoke danger

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
730. misanthrope
10:30 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


If I recall Prudhoe Bay was located in the United States? Please correct me if I am wrong. I am not perfect and make mistakes.

You said Arctic.

Member Since: February 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 532
729. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:29 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


I tried clicking on the image to enlarge but it will not enlarge.
you have to zoom it up too 200 percent go to tools click zoom to 200 percent see it all then
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
728. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:25 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting misanthrope:

Seriously? A Stanford alumnus who writes at the 8th grade level and has never heard of Prudhoe Bay? Can't help but have the feeling that someone here is blowing some smoke.



Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
725. Birthmark
10:19 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


Major oil companies said if the artic would become ice free it will be easier for them to drill for oil. They say the have a huge oil supply there. What are the odds we will ever see oil rigs there?

I imagine the odds are x:1, "x" being an unknown number. :)
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5212
723. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:18 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


Major oil companies said if the artic would become ice free it will be easier for them to drill for oil. They say the have a huge oil supply there. What are the odds we will ever see oil rigs there?


the invaders have all ready arrived

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52265
722. misanthrope
10:12 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


Major oil companies said if the artic would become ice free it will be easier for them to drill for oil. They say the have a huge oil supply there. What are the odds we will ever see oil rigs there?

Seriously? A Stanford alumnus who writes at the 8th grade level and has never heard of Prudhoe Bay? Can't help but have the feeling that someone here is blowing some smoke.

Member Since: February 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 532
720. ScottLincoln
9:59 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting allahgore:


Note taken; if the temp global is expected to rise 6 degree what is the upper limit for some regions 10-20 degree warmer? I have searched all over but I am having a hard time with temps broken down to global regions. I am sorry if we started off on the wrong foot. when I did my search, only thing I found was some stuff on watts site and I have learned on here that is not really a good site to use.


This might be one good place to start:
http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/ scientific-assessments/us-impacts/regional-climate -change-impacts

Perhaps also:
http://www.narccap.ucar.edu/results/index.html#cl imate-change

Both from the first page of a simple google search... "regional climate change"
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 2876
718. Naga5000
9:30 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting Birthmark:

I believe that we have misunderstood our friend. In fact, he is merely documenting all the instances of extreme cold weather (most likely caused by AGW, wholly or in part).

I think it's a nice thing he's doing for us, don't you? ;)


My mistake. You know, on the internet it's sometimes hard to get context. I'll give the documentarian a little credit from now on. :)
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 2692
717. pintada
9:14 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
From Weintrobe:
"To feel this uncared for is deeply traumatic and can also lead to unbearable anxiety, born of a feeling of helplessness and aloneness in the face of survival threats. "

I think (but don't know for sure since i do not pretend to be an shrink of any kind) that she was saying that the anxiety is much worse when our government officials abandon us. When i saw the list of Senators that voted for Keystone XL and saw my senator on it, it was like being kicked in the head. Yeah, the "unbearable" part kinda strong, but ... well it depends on the person.

Quoting bappit:

I think Weintrobe goes WAY off the rails here. While the classification of denialism, denial and disavowal looks useful to me, I don't think most of the people talking about climate change approach it with an existential anxiety like that. A lot of people who talk about climate change feel quite fat, dumb and happy about it (myself included). After all, we already know what is certain to happen anyway. Right?

Uh ... No.

I think that there is a very reasonable question here. Are you in denial (no insult intended), or am I wrong to imagine that we may very well see the first major methane eruption from the continental shelf north of Siberia this summer. One of us has read the tea leaves wrong, and if I am right, you should have some major "existential anxiety like that".

Quoting bappit:

Climate change is just another source of everyday anxiety. To apply the anxiety motivation correctly, I think, would be like the following. a) Denialism is concerned with anxiety over losing profits (greed). It results in a calculated ploy. b) Denial is a basically involuntary reaction when climate change intrudes over the Anxiety Threshold each of us keeps to ward off dangers of whatever kind. c) Disavowal occurs in people who are motivated to think about climate change for some benign reason like being interested in the weather, but the information creates some type of cognitive dissonance that is difficult to cope with except by adopting some distortion. The case might simply be social pressure from people one wants as friends like church, political party or whatever. "Think like us," they might say. Once established, the disavowal can start to take on a life of its own--as the passage quoted suggests.

This is basically my understanding.

Quoting bappit:
It can become a complicated ego support perhaps, or perhaps it is just a convenient pose adopted from time to time.

How does it go?

"If you find yourself pretending to be an asshole all the time then you probably are one."
or is it:
"I go to that bar all the time, and i see the same people in there ... pathetic looser drunks. ... (Oops.)"

Quoting bappit:
I could see the denialism crowd manipulating the disavowal types.

I think this is a given.
Member Since: July 15, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 218
716. Birthmark
8:51 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting Skyepony:
Maybe that Russian met & some of y'all hadn't noticed that huge high that has been cracking up the Arctic..displacing the polar vortex to either side, with the worst of what is left of the polar vortex mostly sitting on Russia & parts of Northern China for a good bit if the winter.



Usually we are watching an ice bridge to crack up near Greenland. That's not even there & we are watching the rest of the Arctic crack up instead. Click pic twice to see extra large.


I've been watching the ice for almost a month. The timing, location, and scope of the cracks has been stunning, to put it mildly.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5212
715. Birthmark
8:49 PM GMT on March 24, 2013
Quoting Naga5000:


What don't you understand about weather not equaling climate. Continuously making the same illogical argument over and over again does not make it any less untrue.

I believe that we have misunderstood our friend. In fact, he is merely documenting all the instances of extreme cold weather (most likely caused by AGW, wholly or in part).

I think it's a nice thing he's doing for us, don't you? ;)
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5212

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.