Building 53 Room 4025, Highfield Campus, 4-5pm. All welcome. Refreshments served after the talk.
The physical science basis of anthropogenic climate change is well established, yet effective political action to prevent its worst impacts has been hard to achieve. Policy depends on popular support, so it is important to understand how opinions are formed and when individuals will cooperate with potentially costly policies to tackle climate change. In this talk, I present results from two ongoing projects that explore different aspects of social action on climate change. The first project uses an experimental economics approach to understand when individuals will cooperate with collective action, framing the climate change issue as a “social dilemma” in which the collective benefits of preventative action conflict with the private costs of participation. In particular, we consider whether the existence of multiple possible solutions (e.g. developing geoengineering alongside mitigation) affects the likelihood of successful collective action. The second project uses data from the Twitter micro-blogging platform to map the social network of individuals who discuss climate change online. This analysis reveals a strongly polarised distribution of attitudes in the online climate debate, which has major implications for opinion formation and how consensus policy support might be achieved. The intellectual linkage between these two approaches lies in the grand challenge of understanding how – or if – large structured populations of self-interested individuals might be persuaded to take action on climate change.