3.5 Influencing behaviour change

Having considered some of the factors affecting public perceptions of climate change, and the difficulties these may cause (lack of understanding, lack of action), it is important to look at when and why people do change their behaviour. First, climate change communication, a rapidly evolving field, needs to be effective in order to engage people. Second, it needs to direct them to further appropriate information. The precise design of communication can vary widely and depends on factors such as the issue being covered, the intended audience and access to different types of media. However, to be effective, it must tackle feelings of individual helplessness which are known to stifle action and changes in behaviour. Therefore, it is helpful to break climate change issues into smaller, clearly defined goals which are achievable but still large enough to matter. These may include ‘to do’ lists of individual home, travel and workplace actions. Alternatively, they might be small campaign-style ‘asks’ – such as signing a petition, writing to an MP or attending a meeting – with the proviso that the objective is achievable and that the asker can show ‘without you we will fail but with you we can succeed’. Both of these types of action can be seen as the starting point for ongoing activity and behavioural change – further incremental lifestyle changes or continuing involvement with a campaign issue. This process can be seen as moving from ‘do nothing’ to ‘do one thing’, and on to systematic change and finally wholesale changes in relevant aspects of a person's life.

3.4 Individual beliefs and attitudes

4 Climate change: national adaptation