Behavioral dimensions of climate change: drivers, responses, barriers, and interventions



This overview describes the anthropogenic drivers of global climate change, reviews the behavioral and psychological responses to its impacts (including barriers to behavior change), considers behavior-focused intervention strategies, and suggests future directions for research. In doing so, it demonstrates why and how behavioral science is crucial for confronting the complex challenges posed by global climate change. The human dimensions of climate change are discussed, followed by descriptions of key theoretical models for explaining and predicting climate-relevant behavior, issues and distinctions in studying human behavior in response to global climate change, an account of psychological (as opposed to structural) adaptation and its behavioral sequelae, the many psychological barriers to behavior change in this context, and behavior-focused intervention strategies. The overview concludes with suggestions for researchers interested in advancing knowledge about behavior change and psychological responses to climate change. When knowledge about human behavior, cognitions, and psychological adaptation is integrated with that produced by researchers in related social and natural science disciplines, the result will facilitate solutions to this massive shared challenge. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:801–827. doi: 10.1002/wcc.143

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