26 Feb 2009  Working Papers

Barriers to Acting in Time on Energy and Strategies for Overcoming Them

Executive Summary — What can the new presidential administration do to address our energy problems? For the past decade, most experts have accepted climate change as a fact, making the issue difficult to ignore—yet many politicians, and the voters who elect them, have done exactly that: ignored the problem. Scientists, policymakers, and others have come up with good ideas to address climate change and other energy issues. Many people seek to identify one cause of climate change, when it is abundantly clear that there are multiple causes. Cognitive, organizational, and political barriers exist that prevent us from addressing energy problems despite clearly identified courses of action. The creation and implementation of wise policy recommendations requires us to anticipate resistance to change and develop strategies that can overcome these barriers. Enacting wise legislation to act in time to solve energy problems requires surmounting cognitive, organizational, and political barriers to change. Key concepts include:

  • The new U.S. presidential administration should identify energy policies that make wise tradeoffs across issues.
  • The administration should communicate that decisions will be made to maximize benefits to society rather than to special-interest groups.
  • The administration should seek energy policies that make sense even if climate change is less of a problem than best current estimates suggest.
  • The administration should identify a series of small changes (nudges) that significantly influence the behaviors of individuals and organizations in a positive direction without infringing on personal liberties.
  • When discounting of the future creates an insurmountable barrier to the implementation of wise policies, consider implementation on a mild delay.


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