Psychological obstacles preventing people taking action to reduce climate change

MSc student Anna Laura Huckelba and Professor Paul van Lange, both from the Institute for Behavioral and Brain Sciences Amsterdam (IBBA), just published an article in Sustainability about the psychological obstacles that prevent people to take action in order to reduce climate change.

04/16/2020 | 4:34 PM

Understanding whether and how individuals and groups cope with environmental dilemmas is widely seen as the first step to combatting climate change. In their article, they provide a social dilemma analysis of climate change, emphasizing three important ingredients: people need to recognize their own impact on the climate, the conflict between self-interest and collective interests, and the temporal dilemma between short- and longer-term interests.

The authors point out that reduction of climate change begins with getting a grip on psychological barriers. The mechanisms they propose for breaking down these barriers are: increasing awareness, making the abstract issue of climate change more concrete and closer to the self, and reducing the costs of behavioural change. Additionally, they argue that mobilizing social networks to remove barriers to change is essential for achieving sustainable behavioural change. Finally, they suggest that governments should take charge of the ‘boundary conditions’ in terms of making behavioural change more feasible, more attractive, and more profitable for individuals and groups. Their closing remark is that we will need individuals, communities, and governments around the globe to work together to start a climate change revolution.

Huckelba, A.L., & van Lange, P.A.M. (2020). The silent killer: Consequences of climate change and how to survive past the year 2050.  Sustainability, 12(9), 3757.