|Robert Gifford is an environmental psychologist who is Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science, and is the recipient of career awards from the Environmental Design Research Association and Division 34 of APA, and for the International Advancement of Psychology from CPA. Professor Gifford is the author of over 140 refereed publications and book chapters, five editions of Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practice (5th edition 2014), and edited Research Methods for Environmental Psychology (2016). He was chief editor of the Journal of Environmental Psychology for 13 years and served as President of the Environmental Psychology division of the International Association of Applied Psychology, APA’s Population and Environment Division, and CPA’s environmental section. He is the Founding Director of the University of Victoria’s Interdisciplinary Program in the Human Dimensions of Climate Change, and the Lead author, British Columbia, for the forthcoming national report: Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action.
Most people think climate change and sustainability as important problems, but too few individuals engage in mitigating behavior to stem destruction of the natural environment. Why is that? Structural barriers are part of the answer, but psychological barriers also impede behavioral choices that would facilitate climate change mitigation, adaptation, and environmental sustainability. Many individuals are engaged in some ameliorative action, but most could do more. They are hindered by seven categories of psychological barriers that include 40 particular barriers, known as the “dragons of inaction.” These include limited cognition, ideological worldviews, social constraints, sunk costs, discredence, perceived risks of change, tokenism, and rebound effects. Structural barriers must be removed wherever possible, but this is unlikely to be sufficient. Psychologists must work with other scientists, technical experts, and policymakers to help citizens overcome these psychological barriers.