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Much of the political debate on particular policy instruments
is focused on their near-term efficacy or popularity.
In light of the above discussion, however, it is clear that
structural changes need to be made that would allow society
and policymakers to more effectively assess the longer-term
implications of policy proposals. Initially unpopular or only
modestly popular measures may gain wider acceptance
if they prompt reinforcing changes in how people define
themselves and their society, particularly if the changes
are aided by innovations that make their implementation
Scientists have made significant contributions to the
literature on collective action, elucidating the conditions
under which it can emerge, spread, and persist. Additional
are needed to evaluate the ways in which
higher-level institutions—such as governments—can alter
the environments in which agents make decisions and
potentially alter behaviors and social norms. Government
policies intended to alter choices and behaviors include
active norm management, changing the conditions influencing
behaviors, financial interventions, and regulatory
measures. Each of these policy instruments potentially
influences personal and social norms in different ways and
through different mechanisms. Each also carries the danger
of backfiring, which is often called a boomerang effect in the
literature (e.g., Schultz et al. 2007)—eroding compliance
and reducing the prevalence of the desired behaviors and the
social norms that support those behaviors (see table 1).
Active norm management
Governments can actively manage (i.e., try to influence)
norms through such things as advertising campaigns, information
blitzes, or appeals from respected figures. “Give a
Hoot, Don’t Pollute” television ads, distribution of information
on the hazards of secondhand smoke, or President Carter exhorting the nation’s residents to turn down the
thermostat in the midst of an energy crisis are all examples.
This type of social norms management is often seen as less
coercive and less expensive than other regulatory measures
We agree that social norms are important, but social
norms and values shift in complicated and often unexpected
ways (Ehrlich and Levin 2005) and respond to myriad
forces at both lower and higher levels of social organization
(Ostrom et al. 2002). If no tipping point is reached, a minority
of the population potentially shoulders the burdens of
proenvironment behavior; moreover, their efforts alone are
unlikely to have a sufficient impact on the types of emerging
environmental challenges that the world faces. Substantial
numbers of people will have to alter their existing behaviors
to address this new class of global environmental problems.
Alternative approaches are needed when education and persuasion
alone are insufficient.
Policy instruments such as penalties, regulations, and
incentives may therefore be required to achieve significant
behavior modification (Carlson 2001, House of Lords 2011).
Policies apply to everyone in a particular jurisdiction and, as
a result, ensure that the burdens of proenvironment behavior
are widely shared, which increases the probability of
measurable positive outcomes.
Some have argued that progress on these problems can be made only through a concerted effort to change personal and social norms. They contend that we must, through education and persuasion, ensure that certain behaviors (e.g., controlling fertility, reducing material consumption, biking to work, eating locally grown foods) become ingrained as a matter of personal ethics. If enough people or certain people (e.g., those with disproportionate social influence; see Christakis and Fowler 2009) adopt these norms, there may be a tipping point (Levin et al. 1998, Gladwell 2000) such that the proenvironment norms become widely shared and environmentally friendly behaviors become pervasive
Anthropogenic Global Warming has been shown to be a farce