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Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

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Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

Executive summary

Beliefs, attitudes and behaviors about climate change has been found out to be fundamental in influencing policies and actions towards addressing it in a given community or nation (Whitmarsh et al 9). At the core of dealing with the problem of climate change and its devastating consequences is to change these aspects among the target population. Houstonians have been found to have poor attitudes and behaviors about climate change, a situation that has resulted in lack of concrete action towards addressing this issue. This paper will discuss the Houstonians’ historical beliefs and attitudes and examine changing beliefs as it seeks to discuss how this situation is going to be changed to ensure that Houstonians are actively involved in addressing the problem of climate change. The theoretical approach for this campaign will be social judgement theory which focuses on how prior attitudes of people distort their perceptions of the policies and perspectives advocated and how such perceptions influence persuasion. The other theoretical approach will be social practice theory which recognizes that human practices are arrangements of various elements that are interconnected like technology use and physical activities. It will present creative campaign strategy with objective of changing one specific consumption behavior of Houstonians that will have a long term positive impact on climate change.

Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

Introduction

Individuals, communities, and the world as a whole are witnessing or experiencing different manifestations of climate change. These manifestations are in form of varying distribution of whether patterns which last for a relatively extended period of time. Scientific studies have established that climate change is as a result of multiple factors including volcanic eruptions, biotic processes, and plate tectonics among others (Brauch et al 14). Also, human activities such as those leading to enormous greenhouse gas emissions are considered as among the major causes of rapidly increasing climate change. Due to the multiplicity of causes of climate change and its devastating effects, environmental scientists and activists agree that there is need to address this issue from a holistic perspective informed by appropriate understanding of the issues related to it (Fielding and Hornsey 2016). This requirement calls for active working towards understanding the past and future climatic dynamics. Understanding attitudes and behaviors of communities about climate change is one of the fundamental aspects of providing proper solutions to this problem (Whitmarsh et al 50). To put this matter into perspective, this paper will discuss the changing attitudes and behaviors of Houstonians about climate change.

Background- historical attitudes of Houstonians on Climate change

Considering the numerous devastating natural occurrences such as Hurricanes and flooding that have caused widespread devastation in Texas, and Houston in particular, there have been varying opinions by Houstonians that reflect on their attitudes and behaviors about climate change. Salih explains that whereas some are informed by experience and work of some of Houstonians such as climate scientists, opinion-survey directors, disaster-response experts, and environmental historians, others are from the general observations of the happenings and others a product of myths (61). As a result of these factors, there are mixed attitudes and behaviors about climate change by Houstonians. There are those who are convinced about existence of climate change while others are still skeptical about its existence (Spotswood 23). As such, addressing climate change dangers in Houston and the larger Texas has proved to be problematic as a significant percentage of residents still do not accept climate science.

Houstonians have a history of undertaking catastrophe-inspired changes in policies and attitudes about climate change (Dawson and Loftis 2017). They are yet to be propelled towards new ways of behaving and thinking with respect to environmental sustainability and climate change. This situation explains why Houstonian authorities, and by extension the Texan government have continuously implemented environmental practices and policies that are largely reacting to the natural hazards and human-caused climate disruption hazards (Popovich et al 2017). As a consequence, Houston has consistently been lagging behind other major cities, especially from New York and California in taking seriously the issue of climate change. There is still no concrete action on the part of the citizens and prominent public figures in Houston to deal with climate change. This is evidenced by the fact that despite the devastating Hurricane Ike that hit Houston and other parts of Texas, there are still no notable plans to create some sort of storm-protection array to deal with such kind of storm. Such plans would have been necessary in guarding Galveston, as well as other Houston region areas including critical infrastructures against future storm surges (Popovich et al 2017).Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

Current and changing beliefs and attitudes of Houstonians on Climate Change

Recent opinion surveys have shown that most Houstonians still deny, belittle, and dismiss conclusions by the scientific communities in the world identifying the climate disruption dangers (Dawson and Loftis 2017). This kind of attitude about climate change by Houstonians is in contrast from the national attitude over the same matter. Nearly 79 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening and are supporting the government policy and action of addressing the problem (Tomlinson 2016). The issue of poor attitude in Houston and Texas as a whole is significantly attributable to more Republicans who still raise questions about human beings burning fossil fuels for the past 25 decades and whether it contributed to rising sea levels and warming climate (Tomlinson 2016). The other factor that has contributed to poor attitude by Houstonians about climate change is the fear that acknowledging science related to it will lead to actions that may result in huge economic disruption, particularly because most of them are employed in gas and oil industries. As such, the path of changing their attitudes is not to show how adverse climate change is, but rather in demonstrating how reduction of emissions is not scary as they believe (Dawson and Loftis 2017).

Theoretical Approach based on changing attitudes and influencing consumption behaviors of Houstonians

The historical and current and changing attitudes and behaviors of Houstonians about climate change can be explained using two main theoretical approaches: social judgment theory and social practice theory. These theories can also help in forming the basis upon which their consumption attitudes and behaviors will be influenced so as to achieve the main objectives of accepting the science behind climate change thereby prompting actions and policies aimed at addressing it (Capstick et al 2014). Social judgment theory holds that individuals and groups of individuals’ evaluation and perception of certain issue or idea is based on comparison with current attitudes. That is, individuals weigh each new idea by making comparison with their present perspective in determining where it should be placed on their mind’s attitude scale. Therefore, persuasion of an individual at the end process happens where they understand the message and then they compare it to their position on the same issue (Fielding and Hornsey 2016).Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

Based on the social judgment theory, the attitudes and behaviors of Houstonians about climate change can be changed. This can be done by first understanding their attitudes. As has been noted, a significant number of them do not embrace the science explanation of the issue, and those that do embrace are reluctant to translate it into policies and actions because of the fear of consequences such as economic disruptions and job losses. Having understood this attitudes, it is clear that their judgments if the persuasive messages will be from the perspective of these consequences rather than the general benefits of dealing with the issue head-on (Capstick et al 2014). This theory also demands that the audience be judged on basis of how close or far they are from their position. Due to the devastating impact of effects of climate change such as hurricanes and flooding that Houstonians have witnessed on many occasions, coupled with the changing attitudes about climate change across the country, it can be deduced that they are shifting away from their hard positions as they strive to find possible solutions (Tomlinson 2017).

The social judgment theory can thus be used to design messages that are aimed at shifting Houstonians attitudes to the prevailing national and global message of embracing science explanation of climate change and using it to address the issue (Fielding and Hornsey 2016). The messaging should be tailored in a manner that seeks to adjust their attitudes towards accepting the science of climate change. By demonstrating the adverse effects of climate change and how science has been used in other parts of the world to deal with them, Houstonians are more likely to be drawn nearer to the idea. This theory also states that in order for the attitude message to be strong, immediate social environment can be used in influencing attitudes. In this case, significant efforts should be placed to directing the message to teachers, parents, and opinion leaders among other influential people in Houston’s social environment. This approach is underpinned by the fact that people often shift their attitudes to be in alignment with those in their immediate environments. In addition, these people will be instrumental in not only fostering of alignment but also in promoting conformity of attitudes (Capstick et al 2014).Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

The social practice theory is the other theoretical approach that can be used in changing the attitudes of Houstonian about climate change, and especially by influencing their consumption behaviors. It recognizes that human behaviors and practices are arrangements of a variety of elements that are interrelated including technology use, norms, knowledge, mental and physical activities and meanings which form people’s attitudes and actions as part of their normal lives (Salih 102). Particularly, it emphasizes on the socio-technical infrastructures and material contexts within which people’s practices take place, drawing attention to their effects upon behavior such as those relating to reproduction and production. For example, it considers that infrastructures such as railways, bridges and roads are not innocent features within a community and therefore they should not be ignored. They play an active role in transforming, reproducing, and defining what people consume on regular basis (Fielding and Hornsey 2016).

It is certain that when Houstonians are considering the issue of climate change, their attitudes are largely informed by their consideration of their production and reproduction practices. As such, social practice theory can be used in offering alternative explanations to their action more than to their behavioral understandings (Popovich et al 2017). To achieve this, it will be used in designing messages that focus on their materiality so as to influence their actions. For example, they can be addressed to the need of using their infrastructures and technologies in a manner that promote sustainability (Mudede 2017). The essence of using such an approach is to minimize resistance by taking into account the mutually constitutive relationship between the population and their wider physical and social systems.

Components of the Campaign Changing the Attitudes and Behaviors of Houstonians about climate change

Using the identified theoretical approaches, a number of effective components of campaign will be utilized with the objective of changing one particular consumption behavior of Houstonians that will have an impact on climate change. The catastrophes that ravage Houston are a direct consequence of climate change caused by global warming which is a product of human activities. Houston’s economy is dominated by fossil fuels and oil and their burning is what has resulted into these devastating consequences (Salzberg 2017). Due the enormous burning of these fuels in Houston, global warming has exacerbated resulting to rising sea levels over half a foot which worsened flooding in Houston (Salzberg 2017). It is therefore necessary that the campaigns should seek to change Houstonians consumption behavior in particular respect to use of fossil fuels. Social media is the primary component of the campaign to raise awareness of the climate change impact. It is expected to be effective due to its ability of being a platform of informing the masses regarding the continuing campaigns; it serves as a great medium of supporting numerous forms of activities about protecting the environment by allowing people of different genders, social classes, races, and nationalities