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How to change attitudes and behaviours in the context of energy


  • Owens, Susan
  • Driffill, Louise


It is commonly assumed that attitudes and behaviours need to be modified to secure a sustainable energy future. This paper examines insights from the social sciences in this extensive field. Alongside instruments such as regulation and economic measures, government campaigns have sought to 'educate' the public. However, such 'information deficit' models have been criticised on theoretical and pragmatic grounds. In the area of energy consumption, there is a need to take account of the physical, social, cultural and institutional contexts that shape and constrain people's choices, and for a richer understanding of opposition to energy facility siting, which has often been (inadequately) characterised as 'NIMBYism'. Recent work also points to the need for more deliberation and better communication between decision-makers, technical experts, other stakeholders and the public. Predicting future developments in the field is challenging but attention is likely to focus on aspects of policy learning, a more critical examination of the 'deliberative turn', and the need for a systemic approach to complex socio-economic and socio-technical systems. The consistency of government objectives across all policy spheres is likely to provide an important avenue for future research.

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  • Owens, Susan & Driffill, Louise, 2008. "How to change attitudes and behaviours in the context of energy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 4412-4418, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:36:y:2008:i:12:p:4412-4418

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R Kemp, 1990. "Why not in my backyard? A radical interpretation of public opposition to the deep disposal of radioactive waste in the United Kingdom," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 22(9), pages 1239-1258, September.
    2. S E Eden, 1993. "Individual Environmental Responsibility and its Role in Public Environmentalism," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 25(12), pages 1743-1758, December.
    3. Susan Owens, 2000. "'Engaging the public': information and deliberation in environmental policy," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 32(7), pages 1141-1148, July.
    4. N/A, 2006. "The UK Economy," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 196(1), pages 40-59, April.
    5. Dan Durning, 1999. "The transition from traditional to postpositivist policy analysis: A role for Q-methodology," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 389-410.
    6. S E Eden, 1993. "Individual environmental responsibility and its role in public environmentalism," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 25(12), pages 1743-1758, December.
    7. Owens, Susan, 1985. "Potential energy planning conflicts in the UK," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 546-558, December.
    8. J Burgess & C M Harrison & P Filius, 1998. "Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 30(8), pages 1445-1460, August.
    9. Susan Owens, 2002. "A collision of adverse opinions' ? Major projects, planning inquiries, and policy change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 34(6), pages 949-953, June.
    10. J Burgess & C M Harrison & P Filius, 1998. "Environmental Communication and the Cultural Politics of Environmental Citizenship," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 30(8), pages 1445-1460, August.
    11. Susan Owens, 2004. "Siting, sustainable development and social priorities," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 101-114, March.
    12. R Kemp, 1990. "Why Not in My Backyard? A Radical Interpretation of Public Opposition to the Deep Disposal of Radioactive Waste in the United Kingdom," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 22(9), pages 1239-1258, September.
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