Climate change governance and communication (Barriers to individual action…
Climate change governance and communication
Current policy for communicating climate change
Governance of risk in neoliberal states is primarily focused on less direct strategies that rely on individuals' voluntary compliance with the interests and needs of the state
Regulation and disciplining of citizens is directed at the autonomous, self-regulated individual. rather than a sovereign state seeking to impose power from above by using overtly directive or legislative means, neoliberal governance relies on dispersed forms of authority and voluntary action
Citizens are positioned in governmental discourses as active rather than passive subjects of governance. rather than being externally policed by agents of the state, individuals police themselves, and exercise power upon themselves.
Current governance follows an information deficit approach: it assumes that the public is ignorant of scientific and environmental matters and therefore education will be able to persuade them of the right course of action. Very linear. (Hinchcliffe and Blowers 2003)
For example the Act on CO2 campaign
Governments are increasingly using 'behavioural change' policies in an attempt to mitigate climate issues. this policy discourse places emphasis on the role of the consumer/individual as the primary agent of change. Again this reflects neoliberalism in that the responsibility for tackling climate change is devolved from the state to the individual (Barr et al 2011)
For example 'Nudge Theory': altering the choice architecture (the context in which individuals make decisions) can have major impacts on consumer behaviour. For example altering the 'default option': Rutgers university changed the default printer setting from print one sided to print double sided. this reduced paper consumption by 55 million sheets over the first 4 years (Cooper 2017)
Barriers to individual action
The consequences of individual's actions in relation to climate change tend to be displaced in time (to future generations) and in space (to more vulnerable geographical locations). therefore actors receive very little feedback on the consequences of their actions. This creates an emotional disconnect from the issue which discourages pro-environmental behaviour (Stripple 2013)
"people find it hard to give the same level of reality to the future as they do to the present. Thus a small reward offered now (i.e. the ease of using a car) will normally be taken in preference to a much larger one offered at some point in the future (Giddens 2012)
The numerous barriers to individual action demonstrate the issues with current government policy to place the responsibility of tackling climate change on the individual
Apathy towards changing current lifestyle and habits
many believe that adopting pro-environmental behaviours will negatively impact their lifestyle in terms of time and convenience (for example taking public transport takes longer and requires more effort) (Defra 2008)
1 in 3 people feel that the difficulty of changing their habits was a barrier to adopting pro-environmental behaviour. We are locked into unsustainable patterns of consumption and it is difficult for us to extradite ourselves from these behaviours.
Many feel that there is a disconnect between the size of the problem (Global Climate Change) and the individual's contribution (e.g. turning off lights) and a sense that individuals are powerless to make a difference (Defra 2013)
Feelings of uncertainty and skepticism about the scale of the issue, or whether it exists at all - 11% think there is too much concern with the environment in politics (Defra 2013)
sociocultural perspectives emphasize the very aspects that cognitive psychological approaches have been criticised for neglecting: the social and cultural contexts in which risk is understood, lived, and embodied.
Rather than seeing risks as realities as lying outside of society and culture, therefore, sociocultural perspectives understand that perceptions of risk differ between actors who are located in different contexts (Lupton 2009)
Dobson (2010) argues for the development of the 'environmental citizen' who's values are rooted in sustainability. they are driven by other-regarding motivations as well as self-interested ones - i.e. understanding that the environment is a common resource pool and that it is finite.
Traditional environmental policies are aimed at the individual and rely on market-based measures such as vehicle tax. The risk of using incentives to change behaviour is that, if the fiscal measure is removed, people will often relapse into their previous patterns of behaviour.
In contrast, because the pro-environmental behaviour of environmental behaviour is rooted within an individual's core values, they are less subject to the political and institutional willpower required to support fiscal measures
environmental citizenship calls for more participatory modes of local governance: since local people best understand the social and cultural contexts in which they live, their active engagement in local projects for sustainable development is fundamental to their success. Environmental citizens co-create the circumstances in which they act (Dobson 2010)
Hierarchical approach to knowledge production
Callon (1999) identifies the Public Education Model (PEM) as the current policy with which we inform lay people of climate change.
The PEM model positions scientific knowledge as the opposite to lay knowledge, grounded in universality and objectivity. It is these characteristics that give scientific knowledge an assumed authority over other sorts of knowledge
public authorities then act as intermediaries for the linear transfer of Science to the public
When scientific knowledge is challenged, for example by media distortion or a realisation of the uncertainty of science, it is assumed that the antidote is to restore the linear flow through further public education. In other words: science is sufficient and the public is deficient
In contrast, in Callon's (1999) Co-production of Knowledge Model (CKM), knowledge is co-produced through a process of dynamic, collective learning, involving both the 'experts' and the lay people
Knowledge generation is no longer a property of science and the knowledge it produces is no longer accorded special privilege over other knowledges
Case Study: Flooding in Exmoor (Woodley and Barr 2014)
Flooding is a widespread hazard in the UK and affects people at all scales, including (perhaps most prominently) the local scale. changing weather patterns are likely to lead to more intense rainfall and therefore flooding of increased frequency and/or magniturede
One solution would be to build more physical flood defences, but a more worthwhile solution would be to increase resilience.
In November 2013 local residents, business owners, environmental scientists and members of local government met to discuss management options for reducing future flooding. The group was able to discuss their own experiences at the local level and therefore relate their own experiences to wider climate change. By focusing on real local issues, the 'big' issue of climate change is made easier to understand and therefore tackle