Based on 14,000 studies of climate change evidence worldwide, the 2021 IPCC report has comprehensively clarified the human’s influence on global warming.
So, if it is human activity driving climate change, could it also ward off the worst impacts of climate change, and if so, how can governments and businesses help consumers make better or climate-friendly choices?
Thanks to a growing body of research on consumer behaviour and climate change. Researchers are beginning to understand more clearly what behaviour changes from consumers can substantially impact halting climate change.
Developments in science and technology brought unprecedented global growth production and consumption in the last 200 years. Though these developments have improved the quality of human life, the flip side is the environmental degradation and pollution that it wrought due to unabated GHG emissions that have resulted in climate change.
A paper by John Thogersen, published in December 2021, reviewed recent research publications published from 2019 and onwards on consumer behaviour and climate change and focused on these two questions:
- First, what drives and impedes climate-friendly consumer behaviour?
- Second, what are the most effective and acceptable interventions to make consumer behaviour more climate-friendly?
Relevant literature of the study shows that in the European Union alone, changes in consumer behaviour effectively reduce carbon footprint by about 25 per cent.
The most impactful are changes in consumption pattern accounting for 28% of the total, reduced consumption at 26%, switching to goods with lower carbon footprint in production at 17%, goods with lower emissions during use at 19 per cent.
A review by Thogergen of the most relevant publications reveals consumer behaviours that can lower carbon emissions, which are focused on food choices (meat vs vegetable or alternative protein choices including insects), energy-related choices (appliance, light, solar panels), travel-related choices (flying, buying an EV), and fashion.
Thorgersen then proceeded to identify the drivers, impediments to each consumer behaviour and interventions that could alter them.
Analysis of the related research reveals a complex relationship between consumer behaviour and climate change, and individual consumers are not capable of identifying the behaviour changes that are worth doing to help the climate.
Consumers will need considerable assistance from governments and companies to shift to more climate-friendly behaviours.
According to Thogersen, “The biggest focus of governments and companies should be on making the climate-friendly behaviour the easy behaviour by securing a correct reflection of carbon footprint in prices, climate-friendly products that compare favourably to climate unfriendly alternatives, and trustworthy and comprehensible carbon labelling to make it easier to make climate-friendly choices.”
As governments worldwide submit their pledges to lower emissions to achieve the Paris Agreement of keeping temperature rise to 2°C or preferably lower, they would need the civil society to cooperate through changes in production and consumption patterns in a more climate-friendly direction.
Read the entire study by clicking on the link at the source citation below.
John Thøgersen, Consumer behavior and climate change: consumers need considerable assistance, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, Volume 42, 2021, Pages 9-14, ISSN 2352-1546, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2021.02.008