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Behavior changes  

Overflow question from today's webinar:
Don Duggan-Haas: Does clearing up these misconceptions lead to actual reductions in emissions? In other words, do people who are more climate-literate have smaller carbon footprints?


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Mel asked about using carbon footprint activities. I use the footprint.org quiz and then follow it up with an in-depth project. The whole project is described here:

The project gets the students involved and does a great job addressing the misconception that solutions are impossible and everything is hopeless. Students feel empowered that they can make lasting changes.

I will go a step further and say that students are much more in agreement about solutions than they are about the climate science. Some of my students never do come into alignment with climate science, but they nearly all can get into the idea of saving energy (and money). It turns out to be a much easier case to make.


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I think the new info from the Yale group about what those in the Six Americas know does show a link between knowledge and at least professed behavior. What's funny though is that even the Alarmed who get the best grades for climate literacy have misconceptions-if I recall correctly they also have the ozone/climate change constructs conflated, and think that pollution (in general) leads to climate change. Maybe that misconception reinforces their behavioral change.

Don, if you are asking about the knowledge deficit myth which I think you are-the notion that more knowledge leads necessarily to better behavior-I don't think it necessarily does. However, I think at least some knowledge is a necessary precondition for changed behavior. I don't think people need to be climate literate to change their behavior. I don't need to be a nutritionist to add more vegetables to my diet. But if I know why it's important it helps.


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I completely agree! The first lab I have students do is a simple worksheet that causes them to write down both a positive impact and a negative impact they personally are currently doing that impacts the environment (not specific to climate change). We talk about how one person can make a difference and that we all impact the environment whether positive or negative whether we realize it or not. I then have them do the footprint quiz (the same one you use) and we talk about this more throughout the semester as we go through the different hot topics in the class.

I am interested to see what project you do with it, so thanks for the link to the project!! I might be stealing it!


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Mel - the project is there for the sharing. The educational literature suggests that active learning is an effective strategy for displacing misconceptions, so this is one example. One nice thing about the journals is that misconceptions come up there and I can address them when they come up.

For example, students sometimes think that if they use batteries, then they are not using electricity. But that is easy to address when I see it.

The other thing that goes a long way is having them measure their energy use and realize how much energy certain tasks use. That alone prompts a lot of interest and motivation.

And my own misconception that we are hopeless to change our behavior is displaced when I read the student journals!


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