What's Holding Us Back from Climate Action?
Lessons from the BECC Conference
Caroly Shumway, Ph.D.
And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye, and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that?
Former President Barack Obama, 2013
Recent studies show that the majority of Americans worry about climate change and support climate policies (Yale Climate Opinion Survey, 2019). So why doesn't climate action reflect this concern, and what can we do about it? Lessons learned from the recent Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) Conference suggest that both behavior change and education are needed to get climate action to scale.
1. Utility companies, cities, and countries are applying behavior change to propel action.
2. Consumer misinformation is a major barrier to electric car purchasing and to home energy conservation.
According to a 2020 review created by E-Source for the Colorado Energy Office, roughly 70% of consumers have range anxiety: fear that they'll run out of battery charge before they reach their destination, despite the fact that most people drive less than 30 miles/day. I get it; I have the same irrational fear about electric cars myself. Fifty-four percent also wrongly think they can't charge their car at home unless they have special equipment. You can just plug an electric vehicle in to a standard 3 prong outlet to charge; the charging stations just have a faster charging option. Less than 50% of people were aware of federal and state tax credits to help recover the cost of purchase. On the home energy front, people mistakenly think that lighting and appliances use more energy than their home heating.
My take-away from the conference is that ways to overcome the barriers to scaling up climate action include: 1) increasing familiarity of use of behavioral techniques; 2) research on how to ensure maintenance of behavior change; 3) better understanding on how to engage the Hard-to-Reach, including renters, low-income earners, and small businesses; and 4) increased use of influential change agents to get the climate actions to scale.
Both behavior change and education are at the heart of what we do at The Center for Behavior and Climate. If you want to learn more about cutting-edge methods for behavior change and climate change, register now for our new course, Behavior Change for Climate Action 101! Or volunteer, and help us make a difference. If you have environmental work experience and interest, send a cover letter and resume to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.