Over the past two years, The Climate Change Task Force of the Coalition of Behavioral Science Organizations has thoroughly reviewed existing research on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It documented an appalling lack of research experimentally evaluating large-scale strategies for influencing people and organizations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For example:
• Worldwide, there have been no peer-reviewed experimental evaluations of community-wide interventions to reduce greenhouse gases involving electricity, refrigeration, or food.
• The federal government is spending more than $9 billion per year on technologies to reduce emissions, but virtually nothing to experimentally evaluate strategies for affecting individual and organizational emissions.
• A review of research funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health identified only 10 studies (out of thousands) that are experimentally evaluating strategies for affecting emission-relevant behavior.
• In the 1970s and 1980s behavior analysts did some careful experimental research that pinpointed effective ways of influencing people’s emission relevant behavior. However, that worked pretty much dried up in subsequent years due to lack of funding.
We believe that it is imperative that the behavioral science community advocate for funding behavioral science research that could contribute to reducing emissions.
We therefore plan to design two Action Circles that can contribute to influencing the funding of the research that is needed. Action Circles consists of small efficient groups that work together over a limited period of time to produce a concrete outcome that contributes to the solution of a larger problem.
Here is what this Action Circle is up to:
• Identifying the organizations and individuals who must be influenced. We have three papers that have or will be published documenting the gaps in lack of funding. However, our findings are meaningless unless they influence the allocation of more funding for research to evaluate strategies for reducing emissions. A first step in influencing funding involves identifying all of the congressional committees and personnel (senators and representatives, their chiefs of staff, and the staff person for each committee and congressperson who is responsible for climate change issues). Simply organizing a database of these people will lay the groundwork for all subsequent efforts to influence them.
• Developing a strategic plan for producing the messages that could affect policymaking and the Action Circles that could be created to reach important constituencies with these messages. This would presumably include not only the policymakers described above but the behavioral scientists who must be activated and the opinion leaders who must be reached. What this Action Circle learns about effective advocacy would inform all of the work of Values to Action. Its contribution would go well beyond the issue of climate change.