From parties in Kyoto and Paris to everyday life in Norway
This PhD project seeks to explore attitudes among the Norwegian population regarding climate and lifestyle. It bears the preliminary title “From parties in Kyoto and Paris to everyday life in Norway: A multi-methodological approach to why Norwegians (don’t) take knowledge about climate change into account in their lifestyle choices”.
The project is affiliated with the LINGCLIM research group at the Department of Foreign Languages. The LINGCLIM research group examines language use related to the issue of climate change, energy transition, and lifestyle issues, in a cross-disciplinary perspective. Changing our lifestyle can contribute to reaching the global climate targets. Therefore, this project investigates to what extent citizens think that climate change is related to their way of life. The central objective is to explore why people chose to take climate change into account in their daily choices or not.
So far, one of the dissertation’s three planned papers has been published. It is entitled “Expressing one’s conceptions of climate in a lifestyle perspective” and was written in collaboration with Professor Kjersti Fløttum and Associate Professor Øyvind Gjerstad. The paper explored ordinary citizens’ reasoning for supporting or opposing individual climate action. The analysis was based on data from an open-ended survey question, fielded in the Norwegian Citizen Panel. This is an online panel where participants are randomly recruited from the Norwegian population register of people above the age of 18. The Norwegian Citizen Panel is part of the Digital Social Science Core Facility at the University of Bergen. The data were analyzed through a mixed-methods approach. First, a qualitative content analysis identified frequently reoccurring themes in the data. After reading all the answers thoroughly, this inductive approach resulted in seven distinct themes. These themes were then analyzed with a dialogical perspective on how the answers relate to and reply to climate change discourses circulating in society.
The evidence from this analysis suggested that in general, citizens agree that individuals have to change their way of life in order to limit climate change. The study expands our knowledge on support for individual climate action by describing the variations in reasons people provide for supporting or opposing such lifestyle changes. The findings indicate that there are many different viewpoints and no “one size fits all” solution on how to communicate lifestyle changes in a climate perspective. Justification of lifestyle choices appear to depend on questions related to the causes of climate change, the importance (or not) of the contribution of individual action, and moral preoccupations.
Next, the project will investigate attribution of responsibility for climate mitigation, and compare the attitudes of politicians to those of the general population. The extent to which one feels responsible is correlated with individual climate action. Since political decisions have a higher impact on mitigation, politicians’ attribution of responsibility could play an important role when it comes to climate action. The final paper in the dissertation will examine to what extent the perception of climate change as a collective action problem limits individual climate action. Seen together, this PhD project will shed light on the challenges of translating knowledge about climate change into climate policy and individual climate action. The project was started in February 2019 and is expected to finish in March 2023.