By Amy Harder
I cover energy and climate change, and yet even I do little to reduce my own environmental footprint.
Why it matters: Because most people don’t! Recent polling and research show that most of us don’t act virtuously to lessen our impact on the planet, beyond turning off lights when we’re not using them — but even then, many of us do that to save money on our electricity bills.
Driving the news: Individuals are facing more societal pressure to take action on climate change as inaction on the matter persists among governments. Swedish teenager activist Greta Thunberg, who refuses to fly because of its carbon impact, embodies this trend.
- Rare, a nonprofit focused on conservation and behavioral change, recently sought to quantify the aggregate impact voluntary, individual steps to cut emissions could have.
- The group concluded that if approximately 10% of the U.S. population adopted seven behavioral changes — including reducing air travel and purchasing an electric car — it could cut total domestic emissions by 8% within the next six years.
Yes, but: That’s a surprisingly big number considering just individual action, but research suggests it would be difficult to get people to take such voluntary steps.
- People are unlikely to stick with energy-conserving behavior when facing moral persuasion, according to this 2018 University of Chicago study.
- That study found that they’re more likely to be persuaded by economic incentives, concluding that higher costs drive people to conserve more energy and for longer.