Working Group III: Mitigation

Other reports in this collection Drivers of Consumption

If energy use, GHG mitigation, and cost-minimization are peripheral interests in most people’s everyday lives, it might be helpful to consider what does shape their consumption patterns. The influences on human behaviour are complex, and can be described and understood in many different ways. Insights can be found in several disciplines, including anthropology, biology, economics, mathematics, sociology, philosophy, and psychology. Michaelis (2000a) summarizes some of the different drivers of consumption patterns. They include

  • demographic, economic, and technological change;
  • resources, infrastructure, and time constraints;
  • motivation, habit, need, and compulsion; and
  • social structures, identities, discourse, and symbols

The first and second of these groups of influences are addressed elsewhere in the TAR and in this chapter, and will not be considered here. The current section focuses on the third and fourth groups. It draws partly on an IPCC expert meeting held in Karlsruhe in March 2000 (German Federal Ministry of Environment, 2000b). It also considers the insights to be gained from viewing behavioural change as an innovation process.

Table 5.2: Strategies for risk management in social dilemmas and barriers to transformations of unsustainable behaviour (Vlek et al., 1999)
Strategy Method Barrier
Provision of physical alternatives, (re)arrangements Adjusting /depleting /changing behaviour options, enhancing efficacy - Absence of physical or technical alternatives
- Failure to identify, or disbelief in feasible alternatives
- Unwillingness to make feasible alternatives available
- Inability to utilize available alternatives
Regulation-and-enforcement Enacting laws, rules; setting and/or enforcing standards, norms - Absence of pertinent laws or regulations
- Insufficient and/or ineffective law enforcement
- Disbelief in effectiveness of law or regulation
- Inability to abide by law or regulation
Financial-economic stimulation Rewards and/or fines, taxes, subsidies, posting bonds - Absence of financial incentives (rewards and punishments)
- Inconsistency of financial incentive systems
- Insufficient, ineffective financial incentives
- Incentive systems justifying squandering (“I paid for it”)
Provision of information, education, communication reduction strategies About risk generation, types and levels of risk, others’ perceptions and intentions, risk reduction strategies - Lack of Knowledge (LoK) accumulating negative externalities
- LoK about own causal role and possible contribution to solution
- LoK about others’ problem awareness and willingness to co-operate
- Uninformed expectations about effects of proposed policies
Social modelling and support Demonstrating co-operative behaviour, others’ efficacy - Absence of invisibility of model behaviour by opinion leaders
- Fear of setting public examples and living by principles
- Inability to understand and follow visible model behaviours
- Failure of managers to provide needed social support
Organizational change Resource privatization, sanctioning system, leadership institution, organization for self-regulation - Too large organization, too much diffusion of responsibility
- Organization form obscuring negative externalities
- Inefficient organization requiring unnecessary energy, materials, and labour
Changing values and morality Appeal to conscience, enhancing “altruism” towards others and future generations, reducing “here and now” selfishness - Personal identity associated to material possessions and consumption
- Importance of social superiority in spending capacity
- View of “whole world as my playground”
- Basic attitude biased against (“hostile”) natural environment
- Inability to feel responsibility for future generations

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