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Tackling climate change will require expertise from several fields, Carnegie Mellon professor says

Principles from decision science can help mobilize citizens to change their behavior

Carnegie Mellon University

PITTSBURGH -- Policymakers can apply the principles of decision science to help the public make informed choices to address global climate change, says Baruch Fischhoff, the Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Fischhoff will give a presentation on mobilizing citizens to combat climate change during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, Feb. 15-19 in San Francisco.

Fischhoff will speak during the "Perception, Persuasion and Climate Change: Can Science Induce Urgent Action?" symposium at 8:30 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 18, in the Continental Ball Room 4 of the Hilton San Francisco.

Decision science is one of four kinds of expertise that Fischhoff says will be required to allow policymakers and the public to make effective decisions concerning climate change. Many decisions affect or depend on processes related to climate change, including energy production and consumption; land use and conservation; home insurance; public health planning; and disaster response, Fischhoff says.

"Each such choice reflects our beliefs about climate change and our commitment to act on them. However, climate is only part of each choice," Fischhoff says.

According to Fischhoff, decision science has no grand theories, but its principles tell us that people can make good decisions if they get key facts in a credible, comprehensive form; have control over themselves and their environment; are judged by their own goals; and have a minimal amount of decision-making competence. "In order to act effectively, people must understand what their options are, what might happen if they act in different ways and how they can create better options," Fischhoff says.

In addition to expertise in decision science, policymakers will need to rely on domain specialists, who can represent the science of climate change and its impact; social scientists, who can identify barriers to effective choices and develop interventions; and designers who can implement realistic, sustainable solutions.

"Experts in each domain can inform those in the others, but must not overrule them. Ensuring such coordinated action requires strong management, whether the focus is conservation, lifestyle changes, disaster preparation, or political action. However, without it, well-intended efforts will be wasted," Fischhoff says.


About Carnegie Mellon -- Carnegie Mellon is internationally recognized for its leadership in environmental sustainability research and education, green practices on campus, and business practices that reflect a commitment to sustainable university operations. University leadership is exemplified through diverse, interdisciplinary academic programs that impact sustainability and the environment, including initiatives in green chemistry, engineering, architecture, the humanities, public policy, computer science, design and art. Environmental literacy is promoted for all undergraduates through projects, lectures and courses. Carnegie Mellon believes environmental education is vital so that all students can make significant contributions to creating a green, sustainable society in their future roles as citizens, professionals, decision makers and consumers. For more information, see

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