Encourage wealthy and well-connected to use their influence to tackle climate change

A paper published in the journal Nature Energy identifies five ways that people of high socioeconomic status have a disproportionate impact on global greenhouse gas emissions - and therefore an outsized responsibility to facilitate progress in climate change mitigation.

  Man in suit on mobile phone  Credit: Niek Verlaan on Pixabay

In their roles as consumers, investors, role models, organisational participants, and citizens, people in this group can help shape the choices available to themselves and others, providing options that either exacerbate or mitigate climate change.

Most research into how we can reduce our climate impact has focused on changing the consumer behaviour of the masses - recycling and switching off lights at home, for example. The authors say that the focus must shift to finding ways of motivating people of high socioeconomic status to change many kinds of behaviours, because what they do can have a much greater impact on carbon emissions. 

The study defines high socioeconomic status as a person’s position in the structure of society, including not only their wealth and income, but also their ‘social resources’, which include social class, occupation, and social network. It encompasses a much broader spectrum of people than just the super-rich, including everyone with an annual income of US $109,000 and above.

“High socioeconomic status people aren’t just those with more money, but those with better social networks. Their connections can enable them to influence behaviours and policies to help mitigate climate change – and we need to find ways to encourage them to do this,” said Dr Kristian Nielsen, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, first author of the paper.

He added: “By saying it’s only the super-rich that need to change their behaviour, we ignore the power that others have to help tackle climate change though their influence.”

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Image: Man in suit on mobile phone

Credit: Niek Verlaan on Pixabay

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

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