Seeking Research on Public Understanding of Electrical Energy
2008-07-14 13:23:02 UTC
Our local energy provider, Xcel Energy, has chosen Boulder, Colorado to be the first Smart Grid City in the universe... or at least as far as we know. Boulder is an early adopter type of town (more Prius per capita but also more SUVs per capita, the first carbon tax anywhere but +40,000 people driving alone into town everyday) but one thing is clear: people are as generally clueless about where their electricity comes from, how it is generated, how the grid works, what peak load and the impact of daily/seasonal demand is as they are anywhere. One would think that knowing the basics of the electrical grid would be important information for a "smart grid" to operate effectively and efficiently. But knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to action or behavior change. What I'm looking for is good solid research on attitudes and perspections people have about the electricity they use, especially in terms of whether understanding the big picture about electrical energy generation (and impact on the environment/climate) helps in conservation efforts and behavioral change or not. I've searched around and not found much but may be looking in the wrong place. I suspect utilities have done market research on how awareness relates to conservation, but some good academic journal articles are what I'm looking for. Can anyone help?
CIRES - CU
2008-03-06 21:00:53 UTC
I've been tracking the CO2 equivalent labelling issue and from what I understand, Tesco (I believe third or fourth largest retailer in the world), which had big ambitions with the UK Carbon Trust of developing labels for products, is realizing how wildly complex trying to come up with a legitimate label really is, so they are now backing off. Wal-Mart in the US has worked with various suppliers to develop case studies about embedded GHG in vacuum cleaners, DVDs, milk, beer, soap and a few other essential products. They've found, for instance, that around 90% of the life cycle GHG of a bar of soap are at the consumer end, specifically the energy for the hot water used with that bar of soap. (Researchers at Vanderbilt University, by the way, note that 40% of all US GHG emissions are by consumers, making US consumers the third largest group of emitters after the entire US and all of China.) The only group I'm aware of working on labelling that includes the economic component of the equation is The Climate Conservancy, and even they are stuggling a bit to find the proper boundaries of what to measure http://www.climateconservancy.org/
Climate Literacy and Education Strategies
2007-12-04 15:45:09 UTC
Thank you, Thomas and Adam, for your comments on climate literacy and education issues. We know that putting good information out isn't necessarily going to help people make decisions, especially in environments/climates where it's all about opinions and not about facts. Lisa Dilling and Susi Moser who wrote the book that Thomas mentions note the challenges of weaving climate and sustainabiility into curriculum, but much of their focus is on public outreach and communications. The climate literacy framework may not be perfect by any means, but its meant as a starting place since there are still so many misconceptions we have to contend with. I'm attending a US EPA conference about their Climate Leaders program (http://www.epa.gov/climateleaders ) which is wildly eye opening to me...and I'm sure some of the companies attending. It turns out that many multinationals are way out ahead of the curve in terms of getting a handle on their emissions and radically tightening up their ships, and there's even some fairly enlightened energy companies out there who have been asking for federal regulations since dealing with each state individually is a huge headache. Clearly, the challenge is so huge we have to come at it from many different angles, including the longer-term focus on education, helping people understand the basic nuts and bolts, so to speak, of the climate system and its human dimension.
Climate Literacy Framwork Being Developed in the US
2007-12-03 11:46:09 UTC
We just finished up a workshop that some of you might find of interest on "Atmospheric Science and Climate Literacy": http://eo.ucar.edu/ascl The climate literacy piece is more mature and there is a draft of the framework (large 20 mg pdf) available online: http://eo.ucar.edu/ascl/foundation.html The idea is to identify the essential principals and fundamental concepts that every student should know about the climate system and human connections by the time they graduate....and what every science savvy citizen should know as well. We know from experience with the ocean literacy efforts develop by NOAA, National Geographic and others that teachers find this framework very helpful, as do policy makers.
Mark S. McCaffrey
Science Communications CIRES
Education & Outreach
University of Colorado- Boulder Campus
Box 449 Boulder, CO 80309
Guidelines to Sustainability Literacy
2007-11-01 14:52:52 UTC
Over a decade back we established the Boulder Area Sustainability Information Network (http://basin.org) which mainly focused on the Boulder Creek Watershed here in Colorado. One of the real hidden treasures we developed through the network was a series of essays on sustainability that this community might be interested in revisiting. They may be slightly dated (written a decade ago) but many of the ideas are, I'm sure you'll agree, timeless:
Carbon Tracking and Labeling- Going Local
2007-10-17 18:53:12 UTC
In theory the carbon labeling, like the Carbon Trust and Tesco have been doing in the UK, using a bag of chips as a case study, are really all about story telling....but condensed down to a little symbol that explains the production, packaging, transport and storage story. If we did it on, say, our electric bill, that would be a big wake-up call for many (especially if there were economic incentives to keep the number low....and local. One case study I'd like to explore is the carbon story of my favorite bottle of Australian wine between the time the bottle was made (and whether recycled glass was involved) and the grapes were grown....to the time the bottle is consumed, put into the recycling bin and finally recycled. I suspect the embedded carbon in the bottle will be far more than in the grapes and fermentation....but I don't know. Anyone want to tackle this one?
Carbon Tracking and Labelling
2007-10-15 21:56:39 UTC
We're organizing a breakout session at the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) annual conference in DC in January.
This year's theme: Climate Change: Science and Solutions. http://www.ncseonline.org/2008conference/
The breakout will be on Jan 17th and focus on carbon tracking in the supply chain (including projects like Wal-Mart's involvement with the Carbon Disclosure Project) and carbon labelling, such as the Carbon Trust in the UK and Tesco (huge multi-national based in the UK) has started to develop with various researchers at Oxford and other British universities. The labelling effort is an experiment for now, with a few case studies looking at, say, the embedded carbon in a bad of chips including production, packaging, transport, and then commmunicating that information in a simple format to the consumer. Very complex equation, needless to say, and it can only take the product from the seed to the shelf, so to speak, and even then there's a bit of wiggle room. But obviously once the product is bought, the carbon story continues, especially if it has to be refrigerated and disposed. (Recycling of metal, glass, paper will radically be changed when fossil fuel costs skyrocket, which they will sooner or later, since the recycling industry has been in effect subsidized by cheap oil/gas for transport.)In any event, we will likely have some one from the Federal Trade Commission at the breakout since they are looking at carbon tracking issues, and perhaps SEC since they are being pushed by Congress and investors to have corporations fess up to their embedded carbon. The breakout is designed to develop recommendations. Will consumers know what to do with labels that reveal how much embedded carbon is in, say, that flatscreen monitor from China? Perhaps not initially, but it could be a big wake up call to us all since so much of the carbon behind the energy and products and services we buy is totally invisible. My sense is that if the world is going to get serious, carbon tracking, labelling and taxes are inevitable.
Your feedback on this would be appreciated since I'm out of my field of expertise but very intrigued with the potential for using tracking and labelling to help improve and maximize efficiencies and perhaps make a contribution toward stabilization.
Mark S. McCaffrey
Science Communications CIRES
Education & Outreach
University of Colorado-
Boulder Campus Box 449
Boulder, CO 80309