Realistic behaviour assumptions are needed in order to implement effective climate mitigation policies, according to a study published today (9 May 2016).
The authors of the paper, published in Nature Climate Change, warn that unless the assumptions about the behaviour of the people who must execute or respond to policies are realistic then “the policies may fail”.
They cite examples such as: wind farms being rejected because planners failed to consider public opposition to changes in their view or harm to wildlife; free weatherization programmes that failed because people did not want strangers coming into their homes; and rebate programmes for new equipment that have had the effect of driving up electricity consumption.
The authors suggest that sea level rise is an issue where realistic understanding of behaviour is key. Individual actions designed to reduce vulnerability (for example, evacuation plans) are increasingly promoted as complements to large-scale public defences. The trouble is that few people adopt such individual measures voluntarily.
The paper, entitled “A decision science approach for integrating social science in climate and energy solutions”, argues in favour of adopting a “decision science” approach with the aim of accurately understanding how people are likely to behave.
The social and behavioural sciences are critical for informing climate- and energy-related policies. We describe a decision science approach to applying those sciences. It has three stages: formal analysis of decisions, characterizing how well-informed actors should view them; descriptive research, examining how people actually behave in such circumstances; and interventions, informed by formal analysis and descriptive research, designed to create attractive options and help decision-makers choose among them. Each stage requires collaboration with technical experts (for example, climate scientists, geologists, power systems engineers and regulatory analysts), as well as continuing engagement with decision-makers. We illustrate the approach with examples from our own research in three domains related to mitigating climate change or adapting to its e ects: preparing for sea-level rise, adopting smart grid technologies in homes, and investing in energy e ciency for o ce buildings. The decision science approach can facilitate creating climate- and energy-related policies that are behaviourally informed, realistic and respectful of the people whom they seek to aid.
Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Tamar Krishnamurti, Alex Davis, Daniel Schwartz and Baruch Fischho; A decision science approach for integrating social science in climate and energy solutions; Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2917.
Nature Climate Change.