This week's Why Social Science? post comes from Corbin Evans, Senior Director of Congressional and Federal Relations at the American Psychological Association, who writes about human behavior and its relationship to the changing climate.
Scientists across a wide range of disciplines agree that climate change is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our world. Climate change is now recognized as a dire threat to global public health, with a growing awareness of the mental health impacts. The discipline of psychology can contribute in multiple ways to the response to climate change, as described in the American Psychological Association’s recent report Addressing the Climate Crisis: An Action Plan for Psychologists. In this report, APA calls on psychologists to bring their expertise and experience to the fight against climate change and to collaborate with other disciplines and professions to magnify the impact of psychologists’ efforts. Psychologists have roles to play in helping society to mitigate climate change and adapt to it, as well as in building public understanding and attitudes and encouraging social action.
Mitigation, which is aimed at preventing further climate change, may involve the development of new technologies, alternative energy sources, and methods for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (e.g., large-scale tree planting, carbon dioxide filtering devices) along with new ways of living and working. New mitigation strategies also present untapped possibilities for incorporating psychological science, including the development of energy-saving smart home technologies that are sensitive and intuitive, ensuring ethical deployments of artificial intelligence, and identifying and breaking down the mental barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Psychologists will be essential to rethinking our world, from aiding the transition to remote work, to reshaping communities to encourage more emission free transportation, to helping people transition to plant-based diets. More broadly, psychologists can contribute to policy development and decision-making about climate change to facilitate acceptance and adoption of new technologies, environments, and routines.