Getting Beyond Voluntary Behaviour Change

The British newspaper, the Daily Mail, is running a poll today asking its readership : “Do you think climate change data is being suppressed ?” And apparently, 92% of the responders do indeed think so. Here’s the whole page of polls :-

Now, of course, the people that read the Daily Mail are a self-selecting group, so their views don’t necessarily reflect the will of the entire British people, but yet this view, based on mere rumour, clearly holds sway with a goodly portion of the electorate. It could have something to do with the opinions that the Daily Mail itself expresses, of course :-

I think I might be right in suggesting that there is a small but perfectly formed hardcore of hard-to-reach thinkers in the population who are firmly opposed to the proposed Low Carbon Transition, for a wide range of reasons, some flimsy, some based on fabrication.

It is for this reason, perhaps, that we continuously encounter pettiness in communications on Climate Change. The people aren’t having it, that’s what. All this Global Warming science nonsense ! It just doesn’t make any sense ! And the scientists are all arguing and sending tetchy e-mails ! That proves it’s not true !

And so, I would reason, a reasonable and measured strategy of urging people gently to change, voluntarily, their Energy consumption habits, reducing their driving and being sensible with the Gas Central Heating, will just not work.

There is evidence that even if we were to manage to change the public mind, people would not change their behaviour, then, either :-

“How Understanding the Human Mind Might Save the World From CO2 : By ANNIE JIA of ClimateWire : Published: November 19, 2009 : What will solve climate change? Will it be technology? Policy? A growing number of researchers and activists say it’s what’s behind it all: people. And understanding them is vital to addressing climate change. The problem is that people don’t understand people very well, research shows. In the 1970s, a researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University named Scott Geller and colleagues conducted a workshop in residential energy efficiency and then measured its impacts. A newspaper advertisement recruited 40 participants on a first-come-first-served basis, and the workshop lasted three hours. Before and after the workshop, subjects took surveys measuring how much they knew and cared about energy efficiency. The change was significant — participants significantly knew and cared more about the issues after the workshop than before. But when the researchers looked at the actual actions that people took afterward, the results were discouraging. One person lowered the temperature on the hot water heater. Two additional people had installed insulating blankets around their hot water heaters — but they had done it before the workshop. Eight people did install low-flow shower heads — after all 40 participants had been given the low-flow shower heads at the workshop. If these were people who cared enough about energy efficiency to attend a three-hour workshop, what hope was there for people who didn’t?…”

What I feel is required is strong, rational, decisive leadership.

We need to get beyond the softly-softly “it’s good for you” approach and get down to some serious legally binding obligations.

Obligations not heaped on the average person, of course. The average person will carry on reading the Daily Mail, driving to the takeaway kebab shop, spending money on things he will throw away, and sitting in his tee-shirt in his overheated living room eating a hamburger and watching a giant plasma TV. There’s nothing wrong in that. He’s made his choices as a consumer, to which he is perfectly entitled.

It’s time to take away choice, in my view.

All the Energy suppliers should be duty-bound to provide Zero Carbon Energy as of now, and pay fines if they do not. All the industrial manufacturers should be obliged to substitute for sustainable and recycled materials. All plastics should be made from biodegradable plant material, especially in the food chain. All wood and wood products should be sustainably sourced. All biodiesel should be orangutan-friendly. All food fairly traded, both internationally and nationally. All farming should be organic. All dwellings would be retrofitted to conserve Energy.

Then consumer choice would all be Zero Carbon. Then all would be fine.

It’s time to get beyond the fluffy, inexact social science of behaviour. People don’t change unless they have to. We need more brinkmanship, taking people to the edge of the decision and getting them to jump for it.

And the people who need to jump to it are not the ordinary consumers.

3 thoughts on “Getting Beyond Voluntary Behaviour Change”

  1. So you have decided that you know best and we should all do what you say, under threat of punishment. The last time I looked, that was called fascism.

  2. I bet even you don’t really believe in manmade global warming/climate change fraud and just believe it is the opportunity or method to get “greedy” nations and the capitalistic society to consume less and for a more “equitable” relationship with “poor” third world countries. (The reason these third world countries are so poor is because of their own non-democratic governments. )
    Of course though if you go onto energy company sites they all pretend to believe in the fraudulent global warming/climate change science. They can pretend they are really doing their bit by pushing energy prices artificially sky high to maximise their profits. But the people who are really suffering are poor people in Britain, especially pensioners, who can’t afford to heat their houses in the freezing temperatures we have now.
    What would all these “poor” counties do with the extra money to prevent global warming? Private jets, limousines for the dictators and their wives.

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