Carbon footprinting has been posited as one means of helping people to link their own behaviour and lifestyle with climate change to better illustrate the practical ways in which people can reduce their carbon impacts and a number of tools are now available to help people measure this - e.g. Defra/DfT`s Act On CO2 calculator, the RSA (which uses Defra data), Warwick University, WWF and so on.
Although half a million people have now accessed Defra`s Act on CO2 calculator, relatively little is known about why these individuals are logging on, how they are understanding and using the calculator, what they make of the results and whether or not this has any long term effect on their behaviours, whether positivie or negative.
This research will therefore aim to:
• Explore public understanding of terms such as ‘carbon’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘carbon allowance’
• Gather information on how people use the (Defra) carbon calculator in real time and interpret the results
• Examine how the calculator outputs (e.g. tonnes of carbon) are interpreted
• Explore understanding of the carbon impact of a range of behaviours
• Examine the extent to which knowing the carbon impact of their lifestyle makes people think about their behaviour and plan alternatives
• Explore the relationship between the use of carbon calculators and similar tools, and actual changes in action and behaviour
• Carry out preliminary testing of the potential unintended behaviour changes or rebound effects of carbon saving
• Examine how people understand and might interact with a carbon-related allowance and trading system
In order to achieve this, the project will comprise:
1. A literature review, and baseline data gathering, to establish the current state of play in relation to public attitudes towards and understanding of carbon calculators and climate change;
2. Qualitative research with 140 individuals, interviewed in pairs, including an accompanied `walk through` of Defra`s Act on CO2 calculator;
3. Follow-up telephone interviews with some of those individuals after two months to establish the degree of change that has occurred and whether or not this has been due to interaction with the carbon calculator(s) or other external factors
4. Final analysis and reporting.