Multiple models to inform climate change policy: A pragmatic response to the 'beyond the ABC' debate

TitleMultiple models to inform climate change policy: A pragmatic response to the 'beyond the ABC' debate
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWilson, C, Chatterton, T
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Start Page2781
ISBN Number0308518X
Keywordsclimate change, climate modeling, Environmental Policy

We have followed with interest the debate in this journal between Shove (2010; 2011) and Whitmarsh and colleagues (2011) on contrasting theoretical approaches and representations of proenvironmental behaviour and social change, and of the potential, rationale, and merit of interdisciplinarity or integration. In this commentary we offer a pragmatic response to the issues being debated from the perspective of policy makers concerned with near-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This response is informed by the recent experience of one of us (Chatterton) during a year-long Research Council UK (RCUK) Energy Programme Fellowship as a social scientist based in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The title of this Fellowship, ``Individuals' and Communities' Energy Behaviour'', reflects the dominant conceptualisation of behaviour among policy makers as elab- orated by Shove (2010), as well as the prevailing interest within government in the potential for behaviour change to contribute towards policy goals.

`Behaviour change' policies are being promoted as an attractive alternative to the more established approaches of legislation, regulation, and taxation (Dolan et al, 2010, page 4). The current UK government's coalition agreement argues for ``shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves'' (HMG, 2010, pages 7 ^ 8).

Supporting institutional developments include the creation of the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insights Team in 2010, and the recent House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee's inquiry into ``the use of behaviour change interventions to achieve policy goals'' (House of Lords, 2011, page 88). Here, we are concerned primarily with climate change mitigation as the policy goal, itself often framed within broader sustainability objectives.

Our commentary on the role of social science in informing behaviour change policy is founded on four propositions.