Climate change behaviours – segmentation study

To inform a review of the Scottish Government’s climate change public engagement strategy, this report identifies and evaluates different approaches to grouping or segmenting the public according to their attitudes and behaviours related to climate change. In addition, to ensure the new strategy is based on the most up-to-date evidence, it reviews the dominant ideas on how to change behaviour.

Key findings regarding how to influence behaviour change are:

  • While there have been many studies published in this area recently, behaviours and practices remain the dominant lenses.
  • Behaviour change research remains a highly active area, but it has not seen any fundamentally different or significantly more effective approach introduced in the last five years.
  • There is a growing evidence base highlighting the limitations of focusing on changing beliefs and attitudes with the intention of changing behaviour.
  • Research also highlights the limits on what individual and collective choice can achieve and the limits of ‘nudging’ or manipulating choice architecture. This is not to say these approaches are not effective. However, a more interventionist approach is necessary to achieve the radical changes to our lifestyles required by the Scottish Government’s carbon-reduction targets.
  • Using an interrelated practice lens rather than the existing behaviour-based approach will have significant benefits in guiding the interventions required by our climate change obligations.

Key findings regarding segmentation:

  • Segmentation is a useful tool for helping to develop public knowledge and attitudes. However, it has limited effect on stimulating actions supporting new low-carbon behaviours over the long term when used to target information-based campaigns.
  • It is challenging to identify which segmentation variables (and in which combinations) are the most effective and should be used as the basis for targeted climate change engagement. This is due to a) the broad range of variables used across the themes of housing, transport, consumption/waste, food and diet; b) inconsistent and missing evidence across a large number of studies reviewed; and c) conceptual limitations of the dominant belief-attitude-intention pathway.

The research summarises the most important and trustworthy segmentation studies into two tables. Then, to allow users to identify the variables used and to what effect, the available evidence has been formatted into an online database.