The formation of belief in climate change in business organisations: A dynamic simulation model

TitleThe formation of belief in climate change in business organisations: A dynamic simulation model
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 68
Keywordsbusiness organisations, Change, dynamic simulation model, formation of belief
AuthorsBleda, M., and S. Shackley
Year of Publication2005

This paper aims to develop a computer based simulation model of the dynamics of the belief in climate change of business organisations using a systems dynamics approach, specifically the STELLA software programme. [1] The main assumption of the model is that the dynamics of the belief in climate change that businesses entertain is going to be driven essentially by the perceived actual and potential changes in competitiveness associated with the occurrence of climate change related events. In other words, we suggest that the way belief in climate change is formed in business organisations is more driven by economic interests rather than by the growth of an ecological ‘business conscience. The model has been built based upon theoretical hypotheses drawn from behavioural studies of organisations, organisational learning theories, and evolutionary theories of change. It is, however, constructed such as to allow future empirical testing and validation through standard analytical methods. Furthermore, the model simulates the formation of belief for a generic business type in a specific sector and in relation to weather events to which the business organisation has a certain level of sensitivity. On the other hand, it allows the adjustment of specified parameters to reflect alternative cases for different types of businesses with corresponding sensitivity to various weather events. It also allows the user to explore the dynamics of belief in climate change of the defined organisation-type for a large range of climate change related scenarios. The simulation results show that, in general, for a business organisation to believe in climate change in the first instance (that is, starting from a situation of 'not believing' that climate change is occurring at all), it is necessary for it to experience strong and frequent (direct and indirect) signals of climate change over a prolonged period of time. The precise exposure duration necessary will depend, among other factors, on the magnitude and the frequency of the signals. Once the organisation has formed its belief in climate change (that is, once it believes that climate change could be occurring), sustained experience of climate change signals is still required to maintain and/or build up this belief. In addition, the simulations show that, in the absence of indirect signals of climate change (such as stricter government regulations and policies, or an increase in the number of scientific reports on the issue), more robust direct evidence of climate change, in the form of highly frequent weather extremes and anomalies, is generally required to have a significant influence on the formation and building up of the belief in climate change. Similarly, in the absence of anomalous weather event and impacts, the indirect or mediated experience of climate change signals will not have a significant effect on the formation of belief in climate change. In general, the analysis shows that the presence of both direct and indirect signals of climate change is required for the emergence and building up of belief in climate change in a business organisation.

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