The Climate, Mind and Behavior Program has received generous support from the Surdna Foundation and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation.
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This month we offer links to three resources, as is our practice. The first two are quite practical: tips from ClimateAccess on communicating about energy and decoding the new IPCC report, and a great TEDx talk by sociologist Jeni Cross on common sense suggestions for using social norms to affect behavior. By the way, as you listen to Cross, note her point about how “you don’t have to change attitudes to change behaviors.” In fact, as we’ve discussed at CMB symposia, research shows that if you change behaviors, say by using social norms, attitudes and beliefs often follow.
The third resource is a paper by James Mastelar in the New Theology Review on Christian worldviews and ethics regarding climate change action. As we’ve also discussed at CMB symposia, religious views can be powerful drivers of action for people of all faiths. From the Buddhist perspective, for instance, each of us is deeply interconnected with all beings, with the result that harm to others -- humans, animals, plants, -- harms us as much or more. In other words, caring for our planet is caring for ourselves and our families.
Here is a question for you: do you agree with the comments in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that governments have another 15 years to engage in serious climate mitigation actions? AR5 suggests this is “good news.” Is there another 15 years for action and is that “good news,” or is it an excuse to defer and deflect? Let us know your thoughts.
Amid all there is to trouble us, please enjoy the onset of spring (at least for those of us in the upper parts of the Northern Hemisphere). There is great joy in the return of leaves to the trees, the flowering of the daffodils, the chance to turn the soil in the garden and the return of our migrating birds -- precious gifts of our lovely, small planet.
Thanks, as always for being part of our CMB family and for all the great work you are doing.
John K. McIlwain
Director, Climate, Mind, and Behavior
ClimateAccess is a rich resource for practitioners working on communicating climate and environmental messages to support related behavior change programs. The project and its website offer many ways for practitioners to connect and learn from each other and from relevant research. They’ve just released a new one-pager in the popular Tips & Tools section outlining best practices for clean energy communication, for example, “use present language” and “tap into a sense of pride.” In the great Resources trove, there is a timely and useful guide to reading and talking about the IPCC report. The guide is a primer on the IPCC and its reports in general, with topics like “What an IPCC report is” (assessment of current knowledge, produced by hundreds of scientists voluntarily) and “What an IPCC report is not” (original research, policy proclamations). There are also short, clear explanations describing what "uncertainty" and "confidence" mean in the report.
In her powerful (and hugely popular) TEDx talk, sociologist Jeni Cross reminds us how important social norms and expectations are for supporting environmental (or other) behavior change. In the fast-paced, engaging presentation she highlights some of the most basic, common sense mistakes practitioners make when engaging the public. For instance, a poster depicting how much litter is generated at a bus stop actually encourages people to litter since that is what everyone else seems to be doing. She gives some great pointers on effective communication and engagement strategies derived from research. Importantly, she reminds us that “you don’t have to change attitudes to change behavior,” underlining how vital social science insights are to behavior change efforts on the ground.
The latest issue of the journal New Theology Review considers the contribution of Christian religious ethics to climate change action. The article by James Mastelar on Christian worldviews is of particular interest as it’s framed by the well-known work of Dan Kahan (Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University) on the importance of worldviews. Here’s the abstract:
“ In light of new data presented in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which emphasizes the increasingly important and urgent need for a global response to the ecological and climate crisis, what role can Christian ethics, religious leaders, and people of faith play in responding to the climate challenge? While understanding scientific data on climate change is incredibly important for interpreting the “signs of the times,” most people approach everyday life in terms of the deeply held values and beliefs—the stories that orient and guide human decision-making. This article notes both the value and limits of scientific literacy, while highlighting the importance of narratives, worldviews, and religion in motivating communities to take action on climate change.”
Climate, Mind and Behavior Leadership Council:
Dina Biscotti, UC Davis
Uwe Brandes, Urban Land Institute
Marilyn Cornelius, Stanford University
Jeff Domanski, Princeton University
Becky Ford, University of Otago, New Zealand
Ruth Greenspan-Bell, Woodrow Wilson Intl Center for Scholars
Lauren Kubiak, Natural Resources Defense Council
Skip Laitner, ACEEE
Nils Moe, Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Phil Payne, Gingko Residential
Roger Platt, USGBC
Jonathan Rose, Garrison Institute Board Member
Kurt Roth, Fraunhofer Institute
Jonathan Rowson, RSA
Rachael Shwom, Rutgers University
Jennifer Tabanico, Action Research
Jason Twill, Lend Lease (Australia)