Lights, camera, action! Stages of behavioural change and the impact of the climate change film The Age of Stupid

Ms Rachel Howell, The University of Edinburgh

Faced with the failure of traditional information campaigns to influence energy-related behaviour, concerned individuals and organisations have been seeking alternative ways to raise concern about climate change and promote lower-carbon lifestyles. One such attempt is the film The Age of Stupid, which depicts the world in 2055 devastated by climate change, combining this with documentary footage which illustrates many facets of the problems of climate change and fossil-fuel dependency. This paper presents the results of a three-stage study into the effects of the film on UK viewers’ attitudes and energy-related behaviour. The film increased concern about climate change, motivation to act, and viewers’ sense of agency, although these effects had not persisted 10-14 weeks after seeing it. Action relating to home energy use, transport, and food consumption/waste was investigated, and the film proved successful in promoting some mitigation efforts and lower-energy behaviour, although respondents reported barriers to further action, such as limited options for improving home energy efficiency among those in rented accommodation. However, filmgoers were atypical of the general public in that they exhibited very high levels of concern about climate change, knowledge about how to reduce their carbon emissions, and contact with organisations campaigning about climate change, before they saw the film. I discuss how these factors might have enabled viewers to respond to the film as they did, as well as the role of visual, emotionally-based appeals in engaging the public and influencing human behaviour.

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