Climate Change and Individual Decision Making
12:00 - 13:30
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.