Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh - BA Kent, MSc Bath, PhD Bath

Professor

Research group:
Social & environmental psychology
Email:
WhitmarshLE@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 6972
Location:
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

I am interested in the psychological and social dimensions of environmental, risk and sustainability issues. My research, which employs both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, focuses on three main areas: (a) public engagement with climate change and low-carbon lifestyles; (b) public/stakeholder participation in sustainability science and policy; and (c) perceived risk and behaviour change with respect to new or controversial technologies (e.g., smart grids, electric vehicles, unconventional fossil fuels).

As well as lecturing in psychology at Cardiff, I am partner coordinator for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and an associate of  the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. I am a member of the Climate Change Commission for Wales advising Welsh Government on transport and behaviour change in relation to climate change.

Teaching summary

Level 1: I give an introductory lecture on environmental psychology in Current Topics in Psychological Research (PS1017).

Level 3: My lectures in PS3415 (Environmental Psychology) cover environmental attitudes and behaviour, risk perception and communication, and recycling and climate change case studies. I supervise final year projects in environmental psychology.

Postgraduate: I give two lectures on the Postgraduate Research Design and Statistics module for research students. The first introduces students to philosophical, ethical and analytical issues in psychological research; the other focuses on conducting mixed-methods research.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)

 

Full list of publications

 

Media activities

My research on climate scepticism, environmental behaviour change and public engagement with new technologies is often covered in national (e.g., Guardian) or specialist (e.g., Footprints, Urban Times, Energy & Environment) media outlets. In 2011, I participated in several Science Café programmes on BBC Radio Wales discussing climate change and nuclear risk perceptions and was interviewed for the Guardian about green behaviour and the government’s Green Deal. Other interviews in recent years include for the Guardian on climate change perceptions, the BBC on public attitudes to climate change, the Times Higher Education Supplement on communicating climate change, and the Express on avoiding fear to communicate climate change.

My research on climate change scepticism received considerable media coverage during 2009. The findings (published in Global Environmental Change in 2011) revealed a doubling of the proportion of the public agreeing that "claims that human activities are changing the climate are exaggerated" between 2003 and 2008 (see Figure).  For example, the BBC, Financial Times, Independent, Express and ABC reported the rise.

This YouTube video describes recent work on green behaviours and how to encourage green lifestyle change.

Research topics and related papers

Public engagement with climate change and low-carbon lifestyles:

This is the major focus of my research and from 2014 includes a €1.5m European Research Council Starting Grant project (CASPI) Low-carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover. The project is about how environmentally-friendly behaviour, lifestyles and spillover are understood and develop within different cultures. In particular, it tests whether and when behavioural ‘spillover’ happens – in other words, whether taking up one new green behaviour (e.g., recycling) leads on to other green behaviours (e.g., taking your own bags shopping), and if so, under what circumstances. For further details, visit the project webpage.

This strand of research stems from my PhD, which examined public perceptions of, and behavioural responses to, climate change in flood-prone regions in the South of England. I particularly focussed on the roles of language and experience in how people understood and responded to climate change.

Since this time, I have worked on: perceived barriers to engaging with climate change; motivations for, and for not, purchasing carbon offsets; the links between different environmentally-significant behaviours, including whether pro-environmental self-identity predicts spillover effects between behaviours; attitudes to climate change (particularly focussing on uncertainty and scepticism); and perceptions of flood risk. My ongoing experimental research (with Adam Corner and Dimitrios Xenias) investigates how uncertain information about climate change is perceived and interpreted, and how prior attitudes, values and identity influence this interpretation. Within this research strand, I am also interested in testing novel ways of engaging the public with climate change, including via narratives, creative writing and interactive exhibitions.

With Irene Lorenzoni (East Anglia) and Saffron O’Neill (Exeter), I edited a book on Engaging the public with climate change: behaviour change and communication which was published by Routledge in November 2010. This interdisciplinary volume features contributions from academics and practitioners involved in communicating climate change and encouraging low-carbon lifestyles.

In addition, I have received funding from DEFRA, Welsh Government, Research Councils and Shell for projects on perceptions of climate change and environmental behaviours. This includes projects on: perceptions of climate change risk amongst Welsh community councillors; narratives of sustainability amongst the Welsh public; impact of the Welsh carrier bag charge; recycling behaviour and spillover effects; motivations for and barriers to uptake of loft insulation; effectiveness of different approaches (informational, social, financial and structural) to encouraging energy-efficient behaviour change amongst students and staff within Higher Education; eco-driving habits; travel goals; perceptions of rivers and ecosystem services; breaking and creating habits for sustainability; Public Attitudes to Environmental Change; and Public Attitudes to Low-Carbon Energy.

In addition, I have received funding from DEFRA, Welsh Government, Research Councils and Shell for projects on perceptions of climate change and environmental behaviours. This includes projects on: perceptions of climate change risk amongst Welsh community councillors; narratives of sustainability amongst the Welsh public; impact of the Welsh carrier bag charge; recycling behaviour and spillover effects; motivations for and barriers to uptake of loft insulation; effectiveness of different approaches (informational, social, financial and structural) to encouraging energy-efficient behaviour change amongst students and staff within Higher Education; eco-driving habits; travel goals; perceptions of rivers and ecosystem services; breaking and creating habits for sustainability; Public Attitudes to Environmental Change; and Public Attitudes to Low-Carbon Energy.

Public/stakeholder participation in sustainability science and policy:

Within three European (FP6 and FP7) projects, ADAM, MATISSE and REACT, I have been involved in developing participatory methods and tools to enable the public and other stakeholders to deliberate over policies and novel technologies and, ultimately, contribute to decision-making about science and policy.

Much of this work was conducted through the MATISSE project (Methods and Tools for Integrated Sustainability Assessment) between 2005 and 2008. The project aimed to advance the science and application of Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) in EU policy-making by improving the tool-kit and methods available for developing and assessing sustainability policies. This work focussed on developing participatory methods and modelling tools to support strategic decision-making in respect of sustainability issues, such as transport and consumption. Literature reviews and stakeholder engagement methods (including expert and citizen focus groups and questionnaires) were used to develop ‘visions’ and ‘pathways’ for sustainable futures in each case study (transport, consumption, water management).

At a more local level, I was also involved in the Sense of Place project, funded by Norfolk Rural Community Council in 2007, which aimed to enable communities to become familiar with, and to influence, environmental issues, including landscape, ecological networks, green space, recreation and climate change. The project focussed on the design (in collaboration with various stakeholder groups) and delivery of a web-based decision-support toolkit.

Risk perceptions and behaviour change with respect to new technologies:

Current work includes several projects exploring public engagement with smart grids, carbon capture and storage (CCS), unconventional fossil fuels (e.g., shale gas), electric vehicles, smart homes, and other novel technologies. This includes two UKERC projects on public attitudes to energy system change and smart grids, two NERC projects on CCS and unconventional fossil fuels, an Eon project on smart homes; and European project (eBRIDGE) on electric vehicles.

eBRIDGE is a co-funded EU project to promote electric fleets for urban travel in European cities. We aim to bring innovation and new technologies to transform today’s mobility into a cleaner, efficient and sustainable mobility. My role (with Dimitrios Xenias) at Cardiff is to explore the motivations and barriers to adoption of electric vehicles using a range of methods (e.g., interviews, surveys, focus groups).


In the previous FP7 REACT (Supporting Research on Climate-friendly Transport) project I worked on (with Dimitrios Xenias), we explored the acceptability of different transport technologies and policies, and the factors affecting low-carbon transport behaviours. This research compared different methodologies for eliciting preferences, including deliberative workshops, paired preference and ranking exercises.


Funding

European Research Council (2014-2019). Starting Grant. Low-carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover (CASPI). Whitmarsh, L.

EPSRC (2013-2016). The impaCt of hydrOcarbon depletioN on the Treatment of cAprocks within performance assessment for CO2 InjectioN schemes (CONTAIN). Harrington, J., Graham, C., Whitmarsh, L. & Zimmerman, R. & Paluszny, A.

Shell (2013). Travel goals and symbolic meanings. Whitmarsh, L. & Xenias, D.

Intelligent Energy – Europe (IEE) (2013-2016). eBRIDGE: Empowering E-Fleets for Business and Private Purposes in Cities. Abdulah, A., Whitmarsh, L. et al (2013).

Welsh Government (2012-2013). Loft insulation adoption and spillover effects in home energy efficiency. Howard, A., Whitmarsh, L., et al.

Welsh Government (2012-2013). Strong Roots: Climate change risk perception and vulnerability amongst Welsh community councils. Thomas, R., Egan, P., Whitmarsh, L. & Reis, J.

BESS/NERC (2012-2015). PhD Studentship: The effects of storminess on coastal ecosystem services and well-being. Selby, K. & Whitmarsh, L.

Welsh Government (2012-2013). Flood Advocacy & Support Service for Communities in Wales. Darnton, A. Elster-Jones, J. & Whitmarsh, L

Eon International Research Initiative (2012). Consumer Preferences for Smart Homes: A comparative study between the UK, Germany and Italy. Ozkan, N., Gruenig, M., Amerighi, O. & Whitmarsh, L.

Welsh Government. (2012. Developing Narratives for a Sustainable Wales. Darnton, A., Marshall, G., Whitmarsh, L., et al.

Shell (2012-2013). (2012). Habit discontinuity and travel behaviour. Skippon, S., Whitmarsh, L., Walker, I. & Verplanken, B.

NERC. Carbon Capture and Storage at In Salah (Algeria – impact research). Kendall, M. & Verdon, J. (2011).

ESRC Doctoral Training Centre / Shell (2012-2015). PhD Studentship: Eco-driving Habits. Whitmarsh, L. & Skippon, S.

Welsh Government (2011-2012). Evaluation of the Welsh Carrier Bag Charge. Poortinga, W. & Whitmarsh, L.

Welsh Crucible (2011-2012). Developing the Sustainable Laboratory – Waste. Brennan, P., Gregory, C., Charlton, A., Harbottle, M., Wang, Y., Whitmarsh, L., Jensen, E. & Cullen-Unsworth, L.

Cardiff University (2011-2012). Electric Vehicles' Value Chain – Bridging the gaps. Cipcigan, L., Holford, K.M., Davies, H., Whitmarsh, L., Nieuwenhuis, P., Wells, P., Rana, O., Stevenson, V. & Lee, S. 

NERC/UKERC (2011-2014). Scenarios for the development of smart grids in the UK. Ozkan, N., Whitmarsh, L., Connor, P., Spence, A., Cipcigan, L., Taylor, G., Rodden, T., Mitchell, C. (2011).

NERC/UKERC (2010-12). Transforming the UK Energy System: Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability. Pidgeon, N., Pearson, P. Spence, A., Parkhill, K., Butler, C, Whitmarsh, L., Sweet, T., Chaudry, M., & Jenkins, N.

RCUK (2010). Public Attitudes to Low-Carbon Energy - Research Synthesis. Whitmarsh, L., Upham, P. (Manchester), Poortinga, W. (Cardiff), Darnton, A. (AD Research & Analysis), McLachlan, C. (Manchester), Devine-Wright, P. (Exeter), & Sherry-Brennan, F. (Exeter)

NERC/ESRC (2010-2013). PhD Studentship. Public Perception of Habitat Management Strategies for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel in Response to Climate-Driven Environmental Change across Wales. Ormerod, S., Constantine, J. & Whitmarsh, L.

British Psychological Society. (2009-11). Psychology and Sustainability. BPS Research Seminars Competition. Whitmarsh, L., Pidgeon, N., Spence, A., Rabinovich, A. (Exeter) & Uzzell, D. (Surrey)

European Commission (Support Action - Framework Programme 7) (2009-11). Supporting REseArch on Climate-friendly Transport (REACT). Roze, R. (Coventry University Enterprises), Rudolph, F. (Wuppertal Institute), Stylianidis,, S. (GeoImaging), Vitale, A.., Tavlaki, E. (Arachni), Radmilović, Z.., Cisic, D.. (Rijeka), Whitmarsh, L. & Špirić, Z..

ESRC. (2009-10). Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Research Synthesis. A review of public attitudes to environmental change. Upham, P. (Manchester), Whitmarsh, L., Poortinga, W., Purdam, K. (Manchester), Darnton, A. (AD Research & Analysis), & Devine-Wright, P. (Exeter)

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. (2008-10). Carbon Offsetting and Pro-environmental Behaviour. Whitmarsh, L.

In addition, I have received funding (on a consultancy basis) from WAG and from DEFRA for several projects on pro-environmental behaviour change, through their Greener Living Fund and Action-Based Research fund.

Research group

Understanding Risk Group
Sustainable Places Research Institute
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W)

Research collaborators

Nick Nash (Fellow; CASPI project)

Dimitrios Xenias (Post-doctoral researcher; eBRIDGE project)

Nick Pidgeon and Understanding Risk group Climate Change Consortium for Wales; URI Sustainable Places; BPS Seminar Series; LWEC research synthesis; WAG segmentation research; research on perceptions of climate change and environmental behaviour.

In addition, I collaborate with a range of researchers from other Schools and institutions, including (amongst other) Exeter, East Anglia, Nottingham, Sussex, Westminster, Melbourne, Aarhus, Fraunhofer, and Wuppertal.

Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in the psychological and social dimensions of environmental, risk and sustainability issues. My research, which employs both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, focuses on three main areas: (a) public engagement with climate change, carbon literacy, carbon offsetting, and low-carbon lifestyles; (b) public/stakeholder participation in sustainability science and policy; and (c) innovation and behaviour change with respect to sustainable transport and consumption.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Paul Haggar

Po-Han Hsu (University of East Anglia; Jointly supervised with Irene Lorenzoni and Peter Simmons) Po-Han’s research examines the ways in which new media influences perceptions, group dynamics and behaviours in relation to energy use and climate change.

Tom Homes (York)

Robert Sposato 

Merryn Thomas (jointly supervised with Nick Pidgeon and Rhoda Ballinger, EARTH). Merryn’s research focuses on public perceptions of sea-level rise risk within the Severn Estuary.

Kate Walker (jointly supervised with Jose Constantine, EARTH, and Steve Ormerod, BIO). Kate’s research focuses on public perception of habitat management strategies for the freshwater pearl mussel in response to climate-driven environmental change.

Daniel Wheelock

Undergraduate education

1997: BA Hons (2.1) Theology and Religious Studies with French, University of Kent

Postgraduate education

2010: Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching & Learning, Cardiff University

2000: MSc (Distinction) Science, Culture & Communication, University of Bath

2005: PhD Psychology (‘Public Understanding of and Response to Climate Change’), University of Bath

Awards/external committees

Best Conference Paper Award at the International Conference on Whole Life Urban Sustainability and its Assessment in Glasgow, 2007

Member of the Climate Change Commission for Wales

Member of the British Science Association Committee on Science & Society 

Member of DEFRA expert panel on Sustainable Consumption & Production (SCP)

Member of the International Association for People-Environment Studies (IAPS)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Reviewer for around 50 journals and publishers, including Nature Climate Change; Risk Analysis; Journal of Environmental Psychology; Environment & Behavior; British Journal of Social Psychology; Journal of Applied Social Psychology; Global Environmental Change; Climate Policy; Ecological Economics; Energy & Environment; Energy Policy; Environment & Planning A; Taylor & Francis books; John Wiley & Sons; Sage Publications

Grant reviewing: NSF, ESRC, NERC, Austrian Science Fund FWF, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO); Leverhulme Trust

Editorial board: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) Climate Change: 
PhD examining: Exeter University, Sussex University, Plymouth University, Queensland University of Technology

Visiting scholar, University of Melbourne (Aug-Sep 2011)

Approved supplier to Welsh Government for Sustainable Living Framework advice/consultancy (2011-2014)

Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Public Engagement Strategic Advisory Group (2009-2011)

DEFRA expert panel on Sustainable Consumption & Production (SCP; 2010-2012)

Employment

2012 – present: Professor/Senior Lecturer/Fellow – School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
2009-2012: Lecturer – School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
2009-present: Visiting Fellow/Partner Coordinator – Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. 
2009-present: Research Associate – ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability & Society (BRASS) and (since 2010) Sustainable Places Research Institute
2009-present: Visiting Fellow – Science Studies Centre, School of Psychology, University of Bath
2005-2009: Senior Research Associate – Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
2001-2004: Teaching Assistant / Lecturer (part-time) – Department of Psychology, University of Bath
2000-2001: Research Officer – Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Burghfield, Reading