Six behaviors policymakers should prioritize to mitigate climate change
Rare's Center for Behavior & the Environment identifies the six behaviors with the greatest potential to reduce emissions in the United States.
The latest issue of Behavioral Science & Policy features a groundbreaking analysis by Rare’s Center for Behavior & the Environment identifying the six behaviors with the greatest potential to reduce emissions in the United States.
This special edition of the international peer-reviewed journal focuses on the critical role that behavioral science plays in addressing environmental challenges. Our research compares a range of behaviors that can affect the environment and prioritizes the ones that produce the highest emissions (see below). The analysis is published alongside other evidence-based research exploring a spectrum of behavioral interventions, insights, policies, and opportunities. Rare’s research has since formed the foundation for our Climate Culture program.
Table 1. Six priority behaviors to target
|Behavior||Illustrative policy||Behavioral principle|
|Commute and travel|
|Purchase an electric vehicle.||Provide discounts at the point of sale or that expire within a set time.||Leverage hyperbolic discounting, a cognitive process that undervalues costs or savings in the future relative to those incurred today.|
|Reduce air travel.||Require airlines to highlight the environmental consequences of air travel through labeling, such as by informing ticket buyers of the environmental effects of their flights.||Increasing the salience of the effects of one’s decisions can prompt active consideration of a factor that might otherwise have been ignored.|
|Eat a plant-rich diet.||Mandate adding emissions information to food labels.||Information provision can influence behavior when it contradicts preconceived beliefs and is consistent with existing values.|
|Purchase carbon offsets.||Require emitters to have customers explicitly choose whether to pay for carbon offsets.||When people are required to make an active choice—to explicitly decide on something rather than absentmindedly continue with the status quo—they are more likely to shift from the status quo.|
|Waste reduction and management|
|Reduce food waste.||Regulate dates on food labels, which are currently set by manufacturers and result in the unnecessary disposal of still-edible foods.||Information provision can influence behavior when it allows people to more effectively express their already established preferences.|
|Residential energy use|
|Purchase green energy.||Default utility customers to a green energy provider.||People often go along with the default option presented to them rather than giving the choice active consideration.|
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