Climate change is widely regarded as one of the most difficult problems facing modern society. Though manufacturers are responsible for much of the emissions in the United States, individuals play a big part in the problem.
So what can be done about it? A diverse group of experts at Vanderbilt University has created the Climate Change Research Network, which combines researchers from areas of earth and environmental sciences, political science, law, engineering, business, management, economics and nursing, to investigate one of the most important and most widely overlooked sources of greenhouse gases: individual behavior.
“The Climate Change Research Network is an interdisciplinary team conducting research to understand the magnitude of the contribution from individuals and households,” said Vanderbilt professor of environmental law Michael Vandenbergh. “Our goal is to identify the legal, economic and social responses that can generate effective, low-cost emissions reductions by those individuals and their families in their everyday lives.”
Participants in the network are examining such questions as:
- What are the emissions from individuals and households (carbon footprint) and how do those emissions compare to emissions from industry?
- Which individual behaviors release the greatest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions?
- What are the greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicle idling and how can they be reduced?
- How do personal carbon calculators vary in their outputs and conversion factors?
- Which social psychological theories have the greatest explanatory power for greenhouse gas-emitting behaviors?
- How do people perceive and value climate change risks, particularly when they are remote?
- How should these climate change risks be valued for policy benefit assessments?
- What changes in the administration and staffing of government agencies will be required if climate change laws and policies are adopted?
Vandenbergh said the Climate Change Research network is also in the early stages of establishing a national and international network of researchers to help answer the questions of policymakers as well as individuals, about what people can do in their normal, day-to-day lives to reduce their carbon footprint.