DEN Project

“Hot Heads” at the Dana Centre, Science Museum

Tuesday evening was time for “Hot Heads”. The interactive public event was held at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre and was part of the the Museum’s ‘Climate Changing’ event programme, organised to co-incide with the opening of the ‘Atmosphere’ gallery.

The panel was comprised of:

Geoff Beattie – a psychologist who explored how we could manufacture a “green revolution”. Geoff explained that although everyone knows that green is good, the impicity and explicit attitudes of individuals are often different meaning that opinions and associations are often disassociated when it comes to green issues. Geoff had been involved in some experiments that had looked at the unconsciousness at work, for example tracking people’s eye movements as they looked at images of different products. Little time was spent looking at information on the product’s carbon footprint, as people want to find good news about their purchase of the product. Perhaps climate change is therefore just too depressing to prompt positive action?

Oliver Payne – considered how green products and lifestyles could become the products of desire. Sustainable behaviour needs to be for everyone, so we are selling to all, yet we are all highly context dependent. We all tend to have an aversion to extremes, and are not purely rational or irrational. Commitments made in public work, and changing the default option changes behaviour as we are seem to welcome decisions that are made for us. Framing is also important as is loss aversion – the pain of loss is apparently twice that of the pleasure of gain so we work harder to avoid loss. Social norms are crucial as no-one wants to be seen as the ‘weirdo’. Oliver’s final factor was temporal discounting as we all tend to dicount the future as we would rather have a reward immediately¬†(even if it is smaller than a reward in the future).

Matt Prescott – explored how policy could be changed to influence the masses through exploring the idea of personal carbon trading. Whilst many people point to the state as being most responsible for climate change, we are ultimately responsible through our use of housing, transport and public services. But the problem is remote, we can’t see it. Matt outlined the main principles of David Fleming’s policy framework to solve the problem through applying emissions trading to us as individuals. Everyone in the nation would have an equal right to pollute and we would then be encouraged to pollute less. We could buy more carbon from those who had not used all of their quote, creating a parallel currency in carbon. Carbon credits could be saved in a community who would be rewarded with new community buildings and facilities. Could we develop these ideas into a policy we would all vote for?

Samuel Fankhauser – an economist and member of the UK Committee for Climate Change explained the nature of Britain’s carbon challenge in reducing its Greenhouse Gas emissions dramatically by 2050. But how to encourage changes in behaviour? Taxes, regulation, subsidies, reputation, assistance and information are all possible ways. So what are the best policies to get people to use less energy in the home?

Lots to think about, but I’m sure that regional museums could play a role in encouraging more “green” behaviour – in fact I’m sure many already are!


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