It is widely known that, despite increasing scientific consensus on the existence of anthropogenic climate change, people around the world still remain reluctant to change their behaviour. In fact, while nearly 20 years of public communication about climate change has undoubtedly increased international awareness, the literature dealing with how this has affected individual behaviours remains relatively dispersed. This review paper advances a unique angle by making two important contributions.

Firstly, the current paper proposes to maintain a distinction between constructs that measure broad pro-environmental behaviours more generally and specific behaviours that can be directly evaluated in terms of their contribution to ‘climate change’ (i.e. climate change mitigating behaviours). If climate change is indeed as urgent as scientists are advocating then it pays to consider effective and efficient ways of targeting and changing those behaviours that are most relevant to the issue at hand. This has the slightly controversial implication of steering away from slightly vague, broad philosophies about human-environment interactions.

Secondly, instead of reporting fuzzy terms such as ‘involvement’, ‘engagement’ and ‘awareness’, this paper goes on to evaluate past and current public interventional efforts directly in terms of actualised behavioural change. Are people reluctant to act simply because they lack the knowledge to do so? Or perhaps we should employ doom scenarios and scare people into changing their behaviour? A grounded psychological overview of theory as well as empirical evidence is provided to help answer these questions. Unfounded criticisms on both the role of knowledge and emotion in behaviour as well as the insufficiency of existing psychological models to predict behavioural change are highlighted.

Finally, a conceptual overview is offered to help structure future debates on the role of public interventions in eliciting wide-scale behavioural change.

Speaker: Sander Van-Der-Linden, PhD student at Grantham Research Institute

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