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How to Communicate “Green�

Reorienting Climate Change Communication for Effective Mitigation - Forcing People to be Green or Fostering Grass-Roots Engagement?

Tuesday, July 22nd
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Carlson School, 1-114
University of Minnesota
Free and open to all University affiliates and our community.

Can you make people be green? What would it actually take to shift public attitude further towards sustainable behaviors?

Dr. Ockwell, University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, will present his work on public attitudes towards “being green�. The United Kingdoms has launched major campaigns to shift public attitude towards more sustainable behaviors. The country has also implemented regulatory policy, such as congestion charges imposed on those driving into London, some of which have been hugely unpopular. Dr. Ockwell will discuss his research on what they have found to be effective or counterproductive, and how that could inform decision making here. Abstract and bio thus follow:

Abstract:
The UK government expends significant resources on communication campaigns aimed at encouraging shifts towards low carbon lifestyles, but research suggests that encouraging attitudinal change alone is unlikely to be effective. The link between an individual's attitudes (which communications campaigns are attempting to influence) and subsequent behavior is mediated by other influences, such as social norms and the 'free rider' effect. We have found there are many barriers - including psychological, informational, social and structural - to public engagement with climate change. One way to engage the public in climate change mitigation would be to introduce regulation that forces green behavior - but government fears a resulting loss of precious political capital citing incidents like the fuel protests in 2000, and anti-road pricing petitions. On the other hand, communication campaigns that advocate individual, voluntary action ignore the social and structural impediments to behavior change. We argue that there are two crucial, but distinct, roles that communication could play in engaging the public: firstly, to facilitate public acceptance of regulation; and secondly, to stimulate grass-roots action through emotional and rational engagement with climate change. By drawing on the latest climate change communication research, we explore whether these 'top-down' versus 'bottom-up' perspectives on societal engagement in mitigation efforts can be reconciled. We argue for a middle way for communication that recognizes two crucial, but distinct, roles that communication could play in engaging the public in low carbon lifestyles: firstly, to facilitate public acceptance of regulation; and secondly, to stimulate grass-roots action through emotional and rational engagement with climate change.

Bio:

Dr. David Ockwell has a background that is strongly interdisciplinary having trained, worked and published across both the social and natural sciences. Dr. Ockwell has worked in both the private sector and academia providing environmental policy advice to a large number of public, private and not-for-profit organizations and has managed and participated in a diverse range of research projects in Southeast Asia, East Africa, Australia and Europe.

His research focuses on transitions to a low carbon economy. Current work includes managing a UK-India collaborative study on low carbon technology transfer to developing countries funded by Defra and the Government of India and ESRC/NERC funded work on discourse analysis of public perceptions of climate change.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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