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New technology isn't the answer for fighting climate change

Experts say more work needs to be done on the local level to see considerable change

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Climate change has created a great deal of stress among consumers, as there is no shortage of health concerns related to rising temperatures and escalating air pollution levels. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Lancaster University has found that consumers shouldn’t wait around for new technologies to help reduce the effects of climate change. Instead, the team says consumers and policymakers need to work together to make shifts in our daily lives in order to see real change. 

“For forty years, climate action has been delayed by technological promises,” said researchers Duncan McLaren and Nils Markusson. “Contemporary promises are equally dangerous. Our work exposes how such promises have raised expectations of more effective policy options becoming available in the future, and thereby enabled a continued politics of prevarication and inadequate action.” 

Creating cultural change

For their study, McLaren and Markusson evaluated technological promises dating back to the early 1990s. They explained that experts have been working to reduce the harmful effects of climate change in a five-step approach: 

  • Stabilization 

  • Percentage emissions reductions 

  • Atmospheric concentrations

  • Cumulative budgets

  • Outcome temperatures 

In each phase, experts have tried utilizing various technological advances that were believed to be the answer to fighting climate change. The researchers note that some strategies that have been used over the years include nuclear power, bioenergy, emissions technologies, and improved energy efficiency, among several others. 

However, despite these efforts, not much progress has been made. According to McLaren and Markusson, the greatest change will come from cultural shifts as opposed to technological advances. 

“Each novel promise not only competes with existing ideas, but also downplays any sense of urgency, enabling the repeated deferral of political deadlines for climate action and undermining societal commitment to meaningful responses,” the researchers explained. 

Moving forward, the researchers want to put the onus on leaders to make real change happen on the climate change front. If there is a shift in societal behaviors and attitudes, then consumers can expect to put up a solid fight against climate change. 

“Putting our hopes in yet more new technologies is unwise,” McLaren and Markusson said. “Instead, cultural, social, and political transformation is essential to enable widespread deployment of both behavioural and technological responses to climate change.” 

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