Climate change is the significant increase in worldwide temperatures which is slowly degrading life on earth as temperature is rising. This is a threat to all life on earth as many habitants are biologically made to survive in stable conditions. Already, there are many examples of species that are slowly dying out due to the increase in climate change and global warming as a result of our actions. Global warming and climate change are a result of the unnatural amount of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions found in the atmosphere as a result of human actions due to the production of large amounts of industrial materials such as cement and steel, non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels as well as animal source foods is all greatly impact the environment around us, as demonstrated in the firgure (Knoema, 2018). There have already been many initiatives presented to the global community in order to catalyse change and start a step towards achieving the goal of only a 2 degrees increase in temperature rather than a greater number. This paper delves into behavioural scientific research and applies it to reducing GHG emissions by targeting individual behaviours that can contribute to GHG emissions. This paper details why previous interventions have been unsuccessful and how we can target specific human behaviours to create public acceptability in the change towards a safer climate.
Examples of GHG emissions produced by humans
The negative results of recent initiatives to prevent GHG emissions have led to the questioning of why these were ineffective if an individual understands their behaviour. Human behaviour is a complex ideology and there are many factors that influence the way we behave, including social, economic, environmental, political factors, and physical environments. We as humans are very conscious of our impact on physical and economic environments due to the large role they play in our lives today, thus is a target of human behavioural science in order to create initiatives that target these areas to ensure effective programs. Many interventions have been unsuccessful as they do not target the unconscious and emotional side of human behaviour.
The Dual Process Model describes human behaviour operating in a conscious and reason driven thought process as well as a non-conscious and emotional thought process. Many interventions to improve climate have been conducted to hone in on the human conscious thought process giving humans the choice to make their own decisions towards creating a cleaner and safer environment. For example, green energy was offered in Germany as an extra choice for residents to choose from out of all other sources, however due to the option they were given, fewer than 1% of those actually chose to use it. This is a sign that conscious thought processes can reduce change as many opt out of saving the environment for reasons such as habit of choosing GHG promoted products, out of economic position, or the lack of care towards the environment. However, if the unconscious process is targeted in human behaviour, it reduces the thought pattern in the individual, and can lead to the choice of an environmentally friendly practices if manipulated accordingly. In order to create this impulsive thought process, the external environment is changed to limit the ability of the individual to have to think about other options. This can be done by limiting the options available and reducing the individual’s choice or generating negative enforcements associated with the decision.
For example Green energy in Germany was then presented as a default/first option for residents, which dramatically increased the users to 69%, due to the lack of choice of choosing other options. This finding can be applied to GHG emissions and climate change by limiting the options available to individuals to reduce their ability to choose actions that increases GHG emissions, or reinforce the degradation occurring in the environment as a result of poor actions which will in the long term impact the individual themselves. As iterated, human behaviour largely revolves around our economic environment, and in oder to create a revolution or great change the economic environment must be modified in order for us to unconsciously behave in a positive way. Thus if a tax or increase in prices associated with GHG promotor products was implemented in the environment, behaviour may shift towards those environmentally friendly practices that are ‘cheaper’ or offered as a default. This idea has been proved through the success of the introduction of a sugar tax in Mexico where it reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 69% as opposed to the ban on sugary drinks in US which only resulted in a reduction of 1% of users. This is a significantly successful practice in some countries, however with this unconscious behavioural change may present ethical issues needed to be addressed.
Altering the unconscious behaviour and ability to decision make reduces ones ability to accept what is being placed upon them. Thus the public must be accepting and willing to take on new environmentally friendly ideas put before them. This may be improved via communication and framing of messages put before the public in order to generate acceptability of changes in the environment to support reduction in GHG emissions. It was proved the way messages were framed and put towards the public generated different outcomes and behaviours. For example a higher number of public acceptance was recorded when the outcomes of climate change were put forth to the public in a way that presented the health benefits of climate change rather than the negative impacts. It is evident a large determined of the success of initiatives that improve GHG emissions and the environment is public acceptability and our perception of the need to make a change, thus great communication and consideration of the public is needed for initiatives based around economic and physical environments in society, to create the greatest impact. This study encapsulates the importance of our awareness of the most effective ways to promote climate change initiatives to the public in order to prevent wastage of time and resources.
We now understand that human behaviour and unconscious thought processing is the most effective way to address environmental issues. Poor human behaviour can be manipulated through the change in external economic and physical environment to create a natural response by humans to generate change. These human behavioural findings why we are reluctant to change if we have no reason to move from what we know. For example if the conscious thought process is available and there are new options, many humans will choose to stay with what they already know and feel comfortable with, rather than following unconscious thought processing and impulsively trying something new. We are able to understand certain decisions made due to the conscious and unconscious thoughts, which could be used in other areas such as advertising and marketing of products in society, directing those to impulsive decisions and create business in the industrial world to promote greater awareness of our impact on the planet.
Alongside this ideology, the have also learnt that the public must be willing to accept these new ideas for it to be largely successful, otherwise we will not meet the climate change goal of capping 2 degrees and climate change will continue to occur. This suggests that the public have more power over the effectiveness of a campaign than the campaign does. This may catalyse research and more time spent on the investigation into what the public will want to see in all aspects of life. For example survey general population to determine what TV shows will be acceptable and what the people want to se to determine how successful a blockbuster movie idea may be.
These findings can generate efficiency and precision in all aspects of life and society, reducing waste of resources and time, in turn, reducing our production of elements that may cause GHG emissions and go to waste. This paper is greatly effective in identifying what needs to be done to achieve the climate change goal in the near future.