Over the last year, Rare’s Center for Behavior & the Environment (BE.Center) has been exploring why climate change needs behavior change. We released a report demonstrating the impact individuals can have on cutting carbon emissions by changing daily habits and behaviors. We co-launched the latest Solution Search competition on this topic. And on March 19, we’re hosting BE.Hive, a one-day, interactive summit examining climate change through the lens of human behavior.
Now, we’re honored to get the perspective of one of the preeminent voices in climate science, Katharine Hayhoe, professor and Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. In the following Q&A, Hayhoe offered insight into how we can improve how we communicate about climate change, and what role behavioral science can play in crafting new approaches to stopping global warming.
Rare: In climate change communications, we hear a lot about how humans are creating the problem, but we don’t often hear about how they are a part of the solution. How can we shift the narrative to spotlight solutions and increase the visibility of people’s actions to lower their carbon footprint?
Katharine Hayhoe: I would say that we do hear a lot about how humans need to solve this problem, but what we hear is primarily negative: to fix climate change, we have to stop using energy, stop traveling, stop eating meat, stop growing the economy, and stop having children.
That’s a pretty daunting list for many people. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize that it’s so far from what most of us could achieve or even want for our lives that it seems hopeless. Why even give it a try, if nothing we do will make a difference and our lives will end up worse, not better?
That’s why talking about the real solutions — positive, beneficial, do-able solutions — is so important; because that is what gives us hope. We need to hear the stories of real people, making real-life choices today, that save money, improve our health, increase our energy independence, grow local jobs, and help those less fortunate than us. We need choices that, when you add all them all up, make our lives better than they are today, not worse.
Read the full interview here.