Seminars & webinars
26 May, 2011

Climate Change and Individual Decision Making

Where: Milan

Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
Corso Magenta 63
20123 Milan

How to reach: Google map
Event's Timetable:

h. 12.00 Seminar
h. 13.00 Light Lunch


Seminars Office,


Francesca Pongiglione, University of Bologna


Recent Eurobarometer data report that climate change is seen as the second most serious problem that the world is facing today; yet the percentage of people that mentions climate change among the first 4 major global problems has decreased, from the 62% reported in 2008, to a 47% in the second half of 2009, and just a 17% chose it as first answer. Furthermore, if the question narrows to one’s own country’s problems, the environment takes the 4%; if the question is about the personal dimension, only the 5% mentions the environment within the two most serious problems perceived. Unsurprisingly, we have not witnessed a significant change in individual behaviour. Scholars from different fields of expertise are trying to understand the possible decision-making components that restrain individuals from taking mitigation actions towards the environmental crisis.
In my analysis of the decision process regarding climate change I will first analyze some of the main obstacles to environmentally good behaviours, considering the elements that seem to cover the major role in influencing the individual decision-making in this context, that involve both the cognitive and the emotional sphere: knowledge, risk-perception, (self)interests. I suggest that many difficulties in realizing the requisite behavioural changes arise from a number of problematic aspects of the cause/effect relation within climate dynamics, that reflect in these three elements of decision making, obstructing both the perception of the issue and the reaction to it. I focus on and discuss the following three: 1. The relationship between causes and effects in the scientific explanation of climate change is not linear or intuitive; 2. Cause and effect within both climate dynamics and individual action-outcome perceptions are too distant in a temporal perspective from one another; 3. Cause and effect in the action-outcome relation do not occur along the same dimension: the single agent acts (individual dimension), but the consequences of his behaviour fall on the community  (global dimension).
Eventually I will discuss the role of social approval as a way of connecting and complementing the above causal relations.

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Climate Change and Individual Decision Making

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