Doctoral Research Abstract
Anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is arguably the greatest environmental, infrastructural, and social challenge of the 21st century. ACC has profound implications for transport and industry, though some sectors have adopted reforms more rapidly than others. Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, on which discourse was notably absent at the UN Paris COP21 conference, remain virtually unrestricted worldwide at the industry level. Rather, responsibility for mitigation is often redirected to individual consumers in the form of voluntary carbon offsetting schemes. As public awareness of aviation’s contribution to ACC increases, consumers are more frequently faced with a “flyer’s dilemma”: the choice whether to adapt their travel habits for the sake of environmental protection.
Will’s PhD project explores public perceptions of ACC and the flyer’s dilemma within the United States of America. Through field work in 2018, he will conduct a series of semi-structured, open-ended interviews with participants at three key US regions of ACC affectedness and/or environmental dispute: the Pacific Northwest, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (in North and South Dakota), and southern Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He is particularly interested in personal anecdotes of climate acceptance and mitigation, and the role of communities in reinforcing climate sentiment. Ultimately, he aims to explore perceptions on responsibility for change on both individual and institutional levels, and apply his conclusions toward the development of constructive narratives for outreach.