Carnegie Mellon University

Combating Climate Change

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Expert Collaboration is Key

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Every day we're faced with choices that affect the environment, from remembering to recycle to choosing to buy greener products. Carnegie Mellon is working to understand and aid those decision-making processes, with a special emphasis on combating climate change.

Carnegie Mellon Professor Baruch Fischhoff recently presented his thoughts on the issue during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"Each choice we make reflects our beliefs about climate change and our commitment to act on those beliefs," said Fischhoff, who teaches decision sciences, and engineering and public policy.  "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 said providing people with the information that they need to make effective decisions about climate change requires the coordinated expertise from:

  • natural and social scientists, who can authoritatively represent the science of climate change and its impacts;
  • decision scientists, who can identify the few facts that matter most for decision making;
  • psychologists, who can help people to understand those critical facts and determine how successful communication has been; and
  • designers, who can get the word out in credible, accessible ways.

The conceptual framework for organizing these efforts is decision science, in which Carnegie Mellon has long been a leader. 

"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."

Fischhoff noted that effective communication requires not only strong science, but also strong management — whether the focus is conservation, lifestyle changes, disaster preparation or political action.

"Without strong management, well-intended efforts will be wasted," Fischhoff said.

Related Links: Social and Decision Sciences  |  Engineering and Public Policy