Reports on public attitudes to climate change and energy use

Three research reports have come out recently that look well worth reading (I’ve only had time to skim them so far).

The first is the Green Alliance’s Demanding less: why we need a new politics of energy by Rebecca Willis and Nick Eyre. It analyses our contemporary energy usage – unprecedentedly high in historic terms, why the policies proposed by the major political parties and energy companies of substituting “greener” energy are unlikely to work, and hence that we need a political approach to reducing demand.

In some ways related is a Sustainable income standards: Towards a greener minimum from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It looks at the UK’s Minimum Income Standard (MIS) and finds that if everyone lived at this level, we would reduce carbon emissions by 37%, far short of the 80% needed. Further reductions to the MIS (for instance cutting meat consumption) might well be resisted, according to their focus groups.

A second JRF report, Climate change and sustainable consumption: what do the public think is fair might help answer this. The main conclusion is that people generally believe that carbon and consumption cuts need to be fairly applied across society to be socially acceptable, and in particular people should not be able to buy their way out of restrictions. This provides a significant challenge to existing “nudge”-based approaches.

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