Climate Change 2001:
Working Group III: Mitigation
Other reports in this collection The Need for Social Innovation

Given the complexity of the social, cultural, and psychological drivers of human behaviour, there are no simple recipes for behaviour change. However, there are considerable opportunities to be grasped in taking advantage of the desire for change and the willingness to experiment and learn on the part of individuals, communities, and institutions (see Table 5.2).

There are many analogies between social and technological change: the two processes are closely linked, equally fundamental to the development of consumption patterns, and the processes behind the development and diffusion of behaviour patterns and cultures are similar to those of new technologies (Michaelis, 1997a, 1997b; Grübler, 1998). They include:

Barriers and opportunities take various forms in association with each of the above processes. The willingness of some groups in society to take risks and to experiment provides an important opportunity for GHG mitigation. New values and behaviour patterns on the part of consumers (e.g., “ethical” or “green” consumption) can spread, encouraging producers to change production methods and management practice. The media plays an important role in the exchange of ideas and in shaping the way new ideas are viewed, whether as exciting new opportunities, as threats, or as eccentric oddities. Alliances among powerful groups can encourage or inhibit experimentation and the replication of successful ideas. And the government can play a key role in setting the contextual framework to encourage shifts in behaviour that would reduce GHG emissions, as well as in removing bureaucratic and regulatory barriers and providing support for local initiatives. Where the institutional structure and culture supports innovation, and where all contextual drivers point in the same direction, changes in technology and behaviour can proceed very rapidly (Michaelis, 1998)

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