People have been unmotivated to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of automobiles due to a personal attachment to their cars. However, they have also been more willing to implement procedures and products in their home that are more energy efficient. One notable example of this concerns electricity and light fixtures. In recent years, lighting that is more energy efficient has become incredibly popular, and it has been shown that people are even willing to pay greater sums of money to purchase lighting systems that are more energy efficient (Stall-Meadows, Hebert, 2001). Such behavior stands in stark contrast with consumer habits with regard to automobiles, and this is perhaps attributable to the fact that electricity is viewed as being more utilitarian and less of a status symbol. It may also be a result of the fact that cars are more public while electricity is featured in the privacy of one's own home.
Additionally, a study conducted in Sweden studied electricity among Swedish residents, concluded that most people who purchase more environmentally friendly lighting systems do so out of a desire to assist the efforts in combating global warming, suggesting that certain regions of the globe are actually quite well-educated with regard to the harmful effects of climate change. One possible reason for the acceptance of environmentally efficient energy is that people may be viewing their low-emission electricity systems as offsetting the more harmful carbon dioxide emissions imparted from their automobiles (Hansla 2011). In this regard, there does appear to be a commitment to being more environmentally friendly in areas that are easiest to improve upon; for example, restaurants that advertise their sustainability and environmental consciousness have seen a recent surge in profits (Hu, Parsa, Self, 2010).
One of the greatest reasons for why customers have generally shown a deep reticence to offset carbon dioxide emissions is that a strong proportion of carbon dioxide emissions are the result of economic factors that are beyond the control of the individual customer. Specifically, it has been shown that roughly one quarter of the global carbon dioxide emissions are the result of international trading; this is particularly the case within the developed world, including the United Kingdom, China, Austria, and Switzlerland (Davis, Caldeira, 2010). Given that the average customer in each of these countries is not informed as to the trading activity of the economy, they may be less likely to assume responsibility for the CO2 emission and work toward offsetting it.
The harmful environmental effects of international trading are particularly pronounced in China, which has now surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of carbon dioxide. It could be argued that it makes perfect sense for China to be the world's top emitter, considering that China also has the world's largest population. However, the speed of China's CO2 emission appears to be growing disproportionately with its population and it is a result mainly of the vast amounts of exporting that take place (Guan et al., 2009). Moreover, attempts to counteract the unfortunate development of carbon dioxide emission in China have proven unsuccessful. It has been noted that even changes in lifestyle and urbanization have not been able to combat carbon dioxide emission, and that China would essentially have to overhaul its entire economy in order to successfully reduce its CO2 emission totals (Peters et al., 2007). In this regard, the efforts of the Chinese public would not manage to achieve the necessary overhaul to the nation's environmental policy. Consequently, lack of agency may be causing a lack of motivation and feeling of helplessness with regard to offsetting CO2 emissions in China. Thus, there are major economic forces that may preclude customer engagement with the effort to offset carbon dioxide emissions from consumed products.
Ultimately, increasing customer willingness to offset the Cos emissions from their consumed products will not occur without a major overhaul to the way in which global warming statistics and information are communicated to the public. Specifically, although much of the public is aware of the fact that global warming is a real and dangerous phenomenon, there are still factions of the global population who feel that it is fabricated and sensationalist. For example, in the United States global warming has a political stigma attached to it, as many political conservatives have accused the political liberals of fabricating the entire phenomenon in an effort to shock the American public into adopting their political philosophy. It is clear that in order to elicit the effort of conservatives, it will be necessary to divorce climate change from its political connotations.
The political stigma of global warming was perhaps best exemplified in the release of an Inconvenient Truth, a 2006 film that chronicled Al Gore's attempt to raise awareness of global warming. The film provided a comprehensive introduction of the harmful effects of climate change, although it was widely panned by political conservatives because Gore is a liberal and they felt that the film was a veiled swipe at the conservative Bush presidential administration (Nolan 2010). A climate problem that affects the entire globe was framed as nothing more than a political attack by the Democratic Party. Ultimately, the media must adopt a less biased stance while marketing films such as an Inconvenient Truth.
The most efficacious way of increasing public understanding of climate change and the need to offset carbon dioxide emissions is to present the statistics more clearly. The need to communicate data is every bit as important as the need to understand the underlying causes of global warming, and scientists must do a better job of communicating their research to the public. To this end, it has been argued by Leiserowitz (2006) that global warming has been framed by scientists in overly cognitive terms that suggest that global warming can be intellectualized by everyone in a simple and rational manner:
"These rational choice models typically assume that people analytically assess the desirability and likelihood of possible outcomes to arrive at a calculated decision. This assumption also underlies the expected-utility model that informs much of economic and psychogical theory." (46).
Leiserowitz identifies how it is incredibly important for global warming to be framed differently to different segments of the population if it has any hope of provoking people to make an effort to offset CO2 emissions.
Certainly, it is crucial for the public to have a more precise understanding of global warming and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, it should also be noted that the public does not have to have anything more than a cursory knowledge -- overburdening them with jargon will not raise motivation to combat global warming. The literature has shown that the most important information to transmit to the general public involves what causes climate change (Bord, O'Connor, Fisher, 2000). Simply communicating the dangers of global warming may cause people to get alarmed, but unless the public is provided with specific strategies for improving the climate, they will not be compelled to take action to reduce CO2 emissions (Bord, O'Connor, Fisher, 2000).
Ultimately, one of the greatest issues (and frustrations) surrounding the public response to global warming is the paradox whereby the vast majority of people are aware of the dangers surrounding global warming, yet still believe that action can be deferred until further information develops (Sterman, Sweeney, 2007). Not only does this reflect an intellectual laziness on the part of the American public (there is a significant amount of literature delineating the negative climate changes already taking place) but it denotes an attitude in which the public expects that the world's climate problems will be corrected without a collective effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. To be fair, the general public are not the only ones to blame for this current of thought; in fact, even politicians have been known to promote a 'wait and see' dynamic that refuses to directly combat the Earth's climate problems.
Studies have shown that a useful method for initiating public action in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions is to frame the climate change issues in terms that will directly impact the customer. One study indicated that people will even be willing to pay for climate change initiatives if they receive small benefits of the climate change mitigation, so it is imperative that the general public be aware of how CO2 reduction initiatives can impact them first-hand (Longo, Hoyos, Markandya, 2012). The focus on offsetting carbon dioxide emissions must be geared toward a micro level as much as a macro level in order for people to be able to apply the benefits of CO2 reduction to their own lives.
Customers will only take an active involvement in offsetting CO2 emissions if they are provided with specific procedures that they can implement. Certainly, studies such as that of Herring (2006), who argues that efficient energy will have the negative effect of lowering the price of energy and leading to greater purchase and consumption, do not help the…