Addressing climate change is among the top challenges facing governments around the world, requiring drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. In part this will be through new technologies but progress will also require encouraging significant changes in day-to-day human behaviour. Unfortunately, although many people express concern about the environment, this is often not enough to induce a change to more sustainable behaviours, especially if the changes involve personal sacrifice – our strong attachment to the private car is perhaps the most obvious example.
In a recent paper, LML Fellow Rosemary Harris and colleagues from the University of Sheffield report on work aiming to improve our understanding of how people make choices on mode of travel for commuting journeys, and so suggest ways that policies might encourage useful change. Traditional approaches to such questions have used so-called discrete models, which assume that individuals make optimal decisions with time and cost as key variables. Here the authors instead use a hybrid model that also allows for decisions to be influenced by other prevailing attitudes and beliefs, such as those associated with concern for the environment. Using a large nationally representative household survey for model estimation, they identify two separate latent variables reflecting underlying environmental attitudes and tendency towards environmental behaviours. Their results suggest that these psychological factors are an important influence on commuting mode choices. This insight could be exploited by governments looking to design effective policies to change travel behaviour.
The paper is available at https://rss.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/rssa.12274