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Public perception of risks and benefits of low materials futures

Strand Campus, London

31 Oct 780x450 main image

Nick Pidgeon MBE, (Cardiff University, Understanding Risk Research Group)

A radical step change in the production and consumption of materials and products is needed as part of the transition towards a more sustainable low-carbon society, with socio-economic modelling indicating that significant carbon savings towards meeting the UK’s 4th and 5th carbon budgets could be made in this way. Part of this change requires strategic changes to product design, product delivery, and the way resources and services are used, some of which are already gaining popularity. However, little attempt has been made to assess consumer acceptance of the risks and benefits of such changes on a larger scale. Our research addresses this gap, exploring the social acceptability of a range of different strategies for reducing consumption-based use of resources with members of the public using qualitative and quantitative research tools. We designed six novel scenarios of reduced resource use (rethinking business, rethinking ownership, rethinking waste, rethinking community, rethinking lifestyles, rethinking products), each scenario also describing a world in which low material strategies were the norm by which people lived their lives. These scenarios were discussed in a series of two-day workshops using qualitative deliberative and narrative techniques. In total 51 UK participants took part, split into four groups based on location (Cardiff and Bristol), and socio-economic status (high and low income). Next an online survey was designed to test results of the qualitative workshops in a wider, nationally representative UK sample (n=1,500) in 2018. By doing this, the survey offered insights into the willingness of respondents to embrace different visions of low carbon futures, while measuring perceived benefits and concerns about each strategy, distrust institutional actors, and identifying core values determining these perceptions. This study research provides rare and detailed insight into public perceptions of alternative economic strategies that will need to be considered to realize a sustainable and low carbon society.

Human Geography Seminar Series

The Department of Geography at King’s College London is pleased to host its Human Geography Seminar Series for this academic year. The Series brings together the interests and expertise of the Contested Development, Risk and Society, and Urban Futures Research Domains and the King’s Climate and King’s Water Activity Hubs to explore new frontiers in research and policy on human-environment interactions.

Find out about other seminars in the series here.


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