The role of story in transitioning to low carbon travel

The role of story in transitioning to low carbon travel

Author: Jean Fletcher – University of Otago, New Zealand

James Higham – University of Otago
Nancy Longnecker – University of Otago

Mitigating climate will require systemwide behavioural change. Story may be a useful tool for engaging individuals in climate change mitigation as they can depict distant futures, inspire emotional reactions, create empathy, model ideal behaviour, reinforce social norms, teach moral values and persuade. This study explored how story may be used to change expectations of future travel amongst individuals with high levels of climate change concern. Future travel was selected as an avenue to explore climate change mitigation because daily commuting and international travel behaviours will need to change in order to meet the mitigation targets set by The Paris Agreement.

At the start of 2016, 350 participants were asked to read either a short story or a textbook-styled text set in the year 2050. Following the intervention participants in both groups were more likely to change the way they described travel in 2050 to be more consistent with the information presented in the texts. However, follow-up interviews 18 months later suggest the texts were unlikely to directly result in behaviour changes. Nonetheless, our findings suggest story may be useful as a tool for getting people to start thinking about the issue of transitioning to more sustainable travel. It is also a useful tool for inspiring self-reflection and acting as a starting point for discussion. Implications of this research will be discussed.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices