Saturday, November 29, 2008

Convenience is the key to unlocking individual adaptation to climate change

I found this link to an article in the Windsor Times (Canada) on a recent survey on declining willingness to adapt to global climate change.

The release of the survey seems to be aimed at influencing next week's round of discusions about adaptation to climate change in Poland:

There is both growing public reluctance to make personal sacrifices and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the major international efforts now underway to battle climate change, according to findings of a poll of 12,000 citizens in 11 countries, including Canada.

Results of the poll were released this week in advance of the start of a major international conference in Poland where delegates are considering steps toward a new international climate-change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

While individuals indicated less willingness to do anything, they do want their governments to do something:

Results of the poll suggested that 55 per cent of respondents in the 11 countries said their governments should be doing more by investing in renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and wave power.

That's more than double the 27 per cent who wanted their governments to participate in Kyoto-style international agreements to reduce emissions.

I tried to find the report, but couldn't, though I admit, I spent more time shopping online than I did trying to track down the referenced report.

From this news article, I conclude this: people want more, not less. (surprise, surprise). What I mean is that people want more investment in long term solutions, more wind, more solar, probably hoping for a perfect substitution to the carbon based economies we have now. A reduction in carbon emisions sounds too much like "restrictions" or accountability (carbon tax) for one's use of carbon.

Regular folks don't really care where the "juice" comes from as long as it works.

Also, simple things like changing light bulbs, buying "green" are the models. People will do stuff if they believe it is convenient (a key value no one ever addresses) and will save money. (Even if it doesn't). Belief is key.

So, when I see stuff like this, article headlined Five Ways to Prevent Global Warming That Big Media Won’t Tell You I begin to shudder, because these are the kinds of changes that freak people out (no matter how right it might be). If you don't want to click on the article, here is the run down:

1. "Avoid high gas prices and carbon emissions" by getting rid of your car altogether and riding a bike (yup, sounds good for urban, not too snowy, cold, or rainy places, but not really pratical for probably half of us)

2. "Eat fresh, local foods for a healthy environment and you" this is the farmer's market solution. Convenience is he killer here. It means more trips to the market (since everything is fresh and doesn't cans, no frozen stuff), AND, if I am only going to eat local stuff here, in Indiana, not much growing now, until need to preserve during summer.

3. "Learn how to reduce your home’s carbon footprint" this is about expensive renovations to one's home including the very stuff one's home is constructed of...lumber bad because of transportation costs and concrete bad because of transportation....corn cobs and hay bales? come on. Changes in behavior like turning off lights when not in use nad just caulking windows, etc. is more likely and more likely to make a dent in the problem. 10% of people destroying their current home and rebuilding with hay stacks is not going to have as much an impact if 50% adopting just money saving, energy saving behaviors in their existing homes.

4. "Keep money in your pocket and carbon out of the air" I like this one, spiritually, this is about "consumerism." yes, buy less, fewer stuffsssssss. yes, but the article suggests this:
But you can take a jab at the consumerism machine by reducing your consumption. For example, you can do this by buying used clothing, joining a co-op, and participating in events like Buy Nothing Day.

5. "Live your values happily with friends" or join a commune, now called an ecovillage. What I like best about this is that the picture that accompanies this section is clearly very, the 10 mile bike ride to work becomes a reality.

I wonder what the effects of these ideas have on folks answering surveys about how much time, money, and effort they are willing to expend to deal with climate change?

I can't speak for other societies, but I am pretty sure that individual responses by Americans will have to be sold as convenient. That is why I think fuel cells will win out over electric cars. Electric cars will require daily recharging...maybe people are used to recharging their cell phones and ipods and computers will easily adapt, but I think "when I need it, I get it" which is the pattern for gas powered cars...hydrogen fuel cells will be the same, even if there are huge infrastructure issues.

Look, the ideal solution is going to be changed to create a realistic solution. Certain values are going to have to be dealt with, covenience being a huge one.

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