The publication New Scientist has an interesting story up. Not too long ago, studies found that peer pressure works to encourage energy conservation. When people were told others were cutting back and conserving, they were more likely to do so as well. This is part of an effort to see how psychology applies to address climate change.
Followup studies have shown that this
But a new study has identified a wrinkle in the plan: the feedback only seems to work with liberals. Conservatives tend to ignore it. Some even respond by using more energy.
Should anyone really be surprised? (more)
The news story has more details.
The findings come from a study of over 80,000 Californian households, just under half of which received feedback on energy use. Overall, the technique worked: households who got the feedback cut electricity by around 2 per cent, say Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn at the University of California, Los Angeles.
But important difference emerged when Costa and Kahn looked at the political leanings of those in the survey. Homeowners who identified themselves as Republicans cut energy use by just 0.4 per cent on average. And those Republicans who showed no practical interest in environmental causes – people who did not donate to environmental groups and did not choose to pay extra for renewable energy – even increased electricity use by 0.75 per cent.
Now this makes a certain amount of sense. If a person doesn't believe in something, they're not likely to act contrary to that disbelief. It suggests campaigns to save energy based on 'green' appeals will fail to reach the hearts and minds of conservatives. Again not news - but it does have policy implications worth thinking about. Again from the story:
But such nudges simply may not work in conservative parts of the US, Costa concludes. She says that other energy-saving schemes will need to implemented as well, such as tougher building codes. Unlike nudges, which do not place a financial burden on homeowners and buyers, these other approaches can drive up the price of homes and so are not always popular. "It may be that we have to do other politically difficult things," she warns.
Looking for consensus and compromise here is not going to accomplish much. Better we take a hard-nosed approach going in and tough it out. If the negative consequences of sending billions of dollars to countries that support terrorism in exhange for gasoline isn't enough, if Republican governors finding their Gulf Coast states covered with oil washing up on their beaches isn't enough, trying to encourage a warm 'green' feeling isn't going to do it either.
Never appeal to a man's better nature. He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. - Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)
The trick is going to be convincing them of that self interest. We can't wait till the north polar ice pack is gone or Florida gets drowned by rising seas. IF the Senate ever does anything about energy and climate change, it will get a lot further forward if Democrats stop trying to make this guy happy and work instead on a bill that will actually accomplish something.