About this theme:
In the global north we are constantly mobile and constantly purchase goods. As households, we heat our homes and cook and make choices about what to buy. In our communities we exchange ideas and signal our self-identities to ourselves and others with our consumer choices. ‘Transition’ describes a system-wide process unfolding through entwined social and technological change at multiple scales. By focusing on ‘social transitions’, we analyse our ways of life and our relationships with technologies and infrastructures.
Collectively, our research contributes to accelerating social transitions towards a zero-carbon future. We will deliver our improved understanding back to policy-makers to support evidence-based decision-making. We engage with non-governmental organisations and industry to improve the design of low-carbon innovations and interventions.
We implement surveys to examine public perceptions of new low-carbon technologies and their future prospects; we use historical case studies to understand drivers and barriers to rapid social change; We explore plausible storylines of low-carbon transitions and how these will affect people’s daily lives.
We emphasise the socio-technical and systemic nature of the problem and the solutions.
We try to understand how people and technology interact in specific settings, and with what implications for emissions; we analyse data from media and other actors who influence opinion, action, and discourse; and we use cutting-edge modelling techniques to capture how households and firms adopt and respond to low-carbon technologies.
We focus on how systems are governed, from formal policy instruments to informal institutions.
We work with local, national and international decision-makers to understand the institutional contexts in which policies are made and plans put into action. We highlight the potential importance of people as consumers, energy users and shapers of shared values and culture.
We analyse how expectations of change transform into experiences of change, and the implications this has for public acceptability.
We develop and test participatory and engagement processes that elicit public and stakeholder views on social transitions and feed these into local, national and international decision-making.
We also engage with the broader academic community to integrate our insights into climate science and policy and apply and promote innovative low-carbon research practices to demonstrate new ways of working.
Past highlights include:
- Financing community energy project analyses the role of financial mechanisms in supporting the development of community energy in the UK.
- Research on Brexit explores the implications for climate change policy of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
- Measuring public perceptions of climate change helps understand risk communication and behaviour-change strategies.
- Low-carbon lifestyles project examines personal and cultural influences on pro-environmental behaviour in seven countries.
- A major new ESRC-funded Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) exploring changes in lifestyles, governance, and systems required to reach net-zero emissions.
- An ERC-funded project on Deep Decarbonisation (DeepDCarb) for understanding challenges for democratic institutions to deliver deep and rapid decarbonisation.
- The Change Points project to translate scientific analysis of household sustainability into practical insights for policymakers.
- An ERC-funded project on Social Influence and disruptive Low Carbon Innovations (SILCI) investigating how social interactions and networks can accelerate the uptake of new consumer innovations.
Some key publications:
Capstick, S., Gough, C., et al. (2021). Three Decades of Climate Mitigation: Why Haven't We Bent the Global Emissions Curve? Annual reviews.
- Vrain, E. and C. Wilson (2021). "Social networks and communication behaviour underlying smart home adoption in the UK." Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 38: 82-97. [doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2020.11.003]
- Wilson, C., L. Kerr, F. Sprei, E. Vrain and M. Wilson (2020). "Potential climate benefits of digital consumer innovations." Annual Review of Environment and Resources 45: 113-144. [doi: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-012320-082424]
- Wilson, C., Grubler, A., Bento, N., Healey, S., De Stercke, S., Zimm, C. (2020). Granular technologies to accelerate decarbonisation. Science.
- Capstick S., Khosla, R., Wang, S. (2020). Bridging the gap – the role of equitable low-carbon lifestyles. Emissions gap report 2020.
- Pettifor, H. and C. Wilson (2020). "Low carbon innovations for mobility, food, homes and energy: A synthesis of consumer attributes." Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 130: 109954. [doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.109954]
- Whitmarsh, L., Capstick, S., Nash, N. (2017). Who is reducing their material consumption and why? A cross-cultural analysis of dematerialisation behaviours. 2017 Royal Society Publishing.
Briefing papers published by CAST on: