As the Biden administration works to gain public support for the new climate and energy regulations, a series of research offers some insights which might help them reach a wider audience. Some research was undertaken by social scientists at ‘The Conversation,’ who investigate how people think regarding climate change solutions. They looked at how people react to different sorts of legislation and why some are more famous than others in the studies.
There were three major differences in these policies:
Incentives, like grants or rebates, were used to encourage low-carbon acts, while disincentives, like fees or taxes, were used to deter high-carbon actions.
Who did they intend to target: businesses or individuals?
Energy supply, such as converting to renewable sources, or even energy demand, like increasing energy efficiency and conservation, were the two areas they focused on.
Participants not only expressed their choices, but also calculated the environmental, economic, and social consequences of each policy. Understanding the impact of those estimations on participants’ opinions could aid policymakers in making unpopular measures more appealing.
Lesson 1: It’s better to have incentives than to have disincentives.
People favored policies with incentives over rules with penalties, particularly when the policies pertained to individuals as well as enterprises. They claimed that incentives would’ve been better for the environment and would result in more economic and social advantages than disincentives.
In any case, they discovered a higher tolerance for disincentives when they related to enterprises rather than individuals. This tolerance was not based on economic perceptions; in both circumstances, the participants expected incentives to provide more economic advantages than disincentives.
Instead, participants seemed to believe that using disincentives to modify individual behaviors – but not corporate policies – would have a lower positive impact on society and be ineffective. For example, over a third of respondents believed that individual disincentives would cause more social harm than good, but only approximately 10 percent thought the same about other policy options.
Lesson 2: Green energy is preferable to inefficient energy.
People also supported measures that would alter the energy supply by boosting renewable energy and reducing fossil fuels over policies that would reduce people’s energy consumption. Participants in the study believed that boosting renewable energy and reducing fossil fuel use would have higher economic and social gains than reducing energy consumption. For example, 87 percent said energy supply policies would have more economic advantages than drawbacks, while 77 percent said the same about energy reduction programs. The researchers discovered that the participants’ political leanings had a very small impact on relative preferences for all eight initiatives.
Their prior research with Lizbeth Benson, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oklahoma, indicated that environmental benefits, as well as the expected economic repercussions (both benefits and harms), influenced which policies people supported.