Consider all the actions that individuals, businesses or governments could take to limit climate change, to make the world greener, cleaner and safer for our children. WHAT STOPS US? Is it the costs, conflict of interests, complex intertwined structures, people’s resistance against giving up convenience and embracing radical change? The usual response is to find the least costly pathways and technological innovations that ask as little as possible from people, businesses, legislation and administration. But let’s be honest, we haven’t made much progress with this so far, precisely because we avoid the difficult question of social change.
But what did we do some centuries, decades, or even two years ago, that seems so unthinkable now? Clearly, social change is possible, and the COVID-19 crisis has shown that social change can happen rapidly, if an emergency is recognised as such and if there is a moral imperative to act to stop or prevent large-scale harm. The pandemic showed the capability for governments to take radical action and the possible rapid pace of technological innovation if money is channelled accordingly. So, our research is about understanding how social change can be made possible, how it can be accelerated, what factors hinder social change and how can we avoid them.
Previous research has suggested that normative change (change in what behaviours and attitudes are socially accepted) can drive large-scale social change and that this normative change is often triggered by social movements (e.g. abolitionist movement, suffragettes). The three goals of this research project are accordingly:
1. Understanding what normative change is happening now,
2. Understanding what is blocking change,
3. Understanding what can be done to amplify the change.
We use a mixed-methods approach of big data analysis, interviews, experiments, surveys and computational models and we collaborate with civil society and policy makers.
- Spaiser, V., Juhola, S., Constantino, S., Guo, W., ..., Abrams, J.F. (2023). Negative Social Tipping Dynamics Resulting from and Reinforcing Earth System Destabilisation. Earth System Dynamics, preprint in review: https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-1475
- Nisbett, N.; Spaiser, V. (2023): How convincing are AI-generated moral arguments for climate action? Frontiers in Climate, 5, 1193350. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2023.1193350
- Nisbett, N.; Spaiser, V. (2023): Moral power of youth activists – Transforming international climate Politics? Global Environmental Change, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2023.102717
- Spaiser, V.; Nisbett, N.; Stefan, C. (2022): How dare you? - The Normative Challenge posed by Fridays for Future. PLoS Climate, 1(10): e0000053. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pclm.0000053
- Spaiser, V.; Dunn, K.; Milner, P.; Moore, J.: The Effects of Communicating Climate Change Threat: Mobilization or Polarization? Working Paper on PsyArXiv: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/qftvc
- Nisbett, N. & Spaiser, V. (2023): AI for Climate Action. Priestley Centre for Climate Futures, https://climate.leeds.ac.uk/ai-for-climate-action/
- Joneja, K., Spaiser, V., Talwar, L. (2023): Speculative Visions. AI for grassroots-driven visioning of climate-positive future in marginalised communities. Offcentre Collective, https://www.offcentrecollective.com/leedsforthepublicgood
- Nisbett, N. (2023): The enduring impact of youth climate activism. Priestley Centre for Climate Futures, https://climate.leeds.ac.uk/the-continued-impact-of-youth-climate-activism/
- Spaiser, V. (2021): “The eyes of all future generations are upon you” — how to galvanise climate action. Policy Leeds. URL: https://medium.com/policy-leeds/the-eyes-of-all-future-generations-are-upon-you-how-to-galvanise-climate-action-791f19f1d4e4
- Spaiser, V. & Nisbett N. (2022): Stabilising Earth’s Climate: Key Social Dynamics. Settee Seminars. Season Five, Episode Two. URL: http://www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk/whats-on/settee-seminars/settee-seminars-season-five
- Recording of How Climate Activism Accelerate Social Change in Response to the Climate Crisis, a research webinar at the Institute for Analytical Sociology, Norrköping, Sweden.
- Recording of The role of norms and civil society to trigger social tipping, Entering Social Tipping: Norms, Agency and Scales, Tipping Points Discussion Series, organised by AIMES, Future Earth, Earth Commission and WCRP
- Spaiser, V. & Nicole N. contributions to Ask A Climate Researcher on What is COP?, What is the best way to stop climate change?, What actions is the government taking, and is it quick enough?, and Do climate strikes really make a difference?
- Recording of Dissecting the outcomes of COP27, organised by PLOS Climate, with Spaiser, V. contributing to the panel discussion
- Recording of research seminar Climate Crisis Norm Entrepreneurs - How successful are they? at Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm
- Recording of Designing for Democracy: Climate Emergency with Spaiser, V. contributing
- Reflections by Spaiser, V. & Nicole, N. on a trial of a Virtual Citizen Discussion on Climate Change Policies in the North using LiquidFeedback, results on the trial are reported here.
- Invited speed talk with Q&A on behaviour change in response to the climate emergency at the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee's Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) event, Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) (30/11/2023)
- Contribution to the House of Lords, Environment and Climate Change Committee report "In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals" (2022)
Dr Viktoria Spaiser and her PhD student Susan Ann Samuel are both attending this year's COP28 as part of the University of Leeds COP28 delegation. Dr Viktoria Spaiser will participate at COP28 mainly to promote the Global Tipping Points Report, to which she has contributed significantly and which will be launched on the 6th of...
Dr Viktoria Spaiser will present some of the work she has been doing as part of her UKRI FLF award at the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure (CCEI) Committee Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) event on the 30th of November 2023. She has been invited along with other researchers and experts to provide insights...
Dr Nicole Nisbett and Dr Viktoria Spaiser from POLIS have had their article – “How convincing are AI-generated moral arguments for climate action?” – published in the Frontiers in Climate journal on 6th July 2023. For more details and the link to read the open access article, please click here.