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PLOS Science Wednesday: We’re Kaitlin Raimi, Paul Stern, and Alex Maki, we research how to talk about climate change, Ask Us Anything!
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Hi Reddit, My name is Kaitlin Raimi and I am an Assistant Professor at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on how people think and act when it comes to climate change, including how social motivations can promote or prevent sustainable solutions. I’m particularly interested in how people compare their own beliefs and behaviors to those of other people, how the desire to make a good impression can influence people to mitigate climate change, and how one adopting one sustainable behavior affects later environmental decisions. I also have ongoing work on how framing climate change in different ways affects people’s understanding of climate change and support for climate policies. Together with my colleagues Paul Stern and Alex Maki, I recently published a paper titled “The Promise and Limitations of Using Analogies to Improve Decision-Relevant Understanding of Climate Change” in the journal PLOS ONE. My name is Alex Maki and I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment and the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network. My research uses theory-based behavior change interventions to understand and influence environmental (e.g., energy use), health (e.g., eating choices), and prosocial (e.g., volunteerism) behaviors. Specifically, I am interested in how interventions can help people initiate and maintain changes to multiple, related behaviors over time (e.g., both conserve energy and water at home). I also examine the social dynamics surrounding environmental behaviors, including who chooses to talk to other people (e.g., friends or family) about environmental issues, and how we can help people have more constructive conversations about important environmental issues, including climate change. My name is Paul Stern. For over two decades I was staff director of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change at the U.S. National Research Council. At the same time, I have been conducting research with colleagues outside the Council on topics that have included household energy consumption, the effectiveness of policies to reduce greenhouse has emissions by changing consumer behavior, and people’s understanding of various kinds of environmental risks. Understanding the risks of climate change is a real challenge because of its long-term nature and the difficulty of making confident predictions of what risks particular communities will face. This paper is part of an effort to find ways to help people think through the risks without having to understand all the scientific details. We wanted to know whether using analogies helps people understand key factors that are important for climate change decisions, including uncertainties about when and where serious damage may occur, its unprecedented and progressive nature, and trade-offs in limiting climate change. Specifically, across two studies, we looked at whether comparing climate change to medical decision-making, disaster preparedness, or courtroom trials helped people to understand these issues. We found that disaster preparedness and a courtroom trial analogy weren’t very helpful, and that none of the analogies helped people understand the basic science of climate change. However, we did find that comparing climate change to a medical decision helped people–especially political conservatives–to to better recognize several decision-relevant attributes of climate change. Follow Kaitlin on Twitter @KaitlinRaimi We will be back at 1 pm ET to answer your questions, ask us anything!