Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Changing Climate and Changing Behaviour: Perceptions of Powerlessness and the Commons Dilemma

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posted on 2021-11-09, 01:01 authored by Aitken, Christopher

Mitigating climate change is recognized as an increasingly urgent task that requires several different methods to achieve. Among these is the need to encourage voluntary behaviour change. Doing so necessitates an understanding of the barriers that prevent behaviour change, including those which are psychological. Among the psychological barriers to change are perceptions of powerlessness and the commons dilemma. This thesis takes a mixed method approach to understand importance of these in relation to both each other and other barriers when taking action to mitigate climate change. Results indicate that individuals do not clearly distinguish climate change from general environmental problems and have a tendency to simplify the issues to that considered to be the singularly most important. Powerlessness and the commons dilemma had been evaluated but not extensively or as specifically applicable to climate change. Powerlessness and the commons dilemma were both found to relate to lower amounts of action on climate change and less importance placed upon climate change in actions. Perceived risk and human influence on climate change were the strongest predictors of action. Results generally support the knowledge-deficit model of behaviour change as being applicable to climate change.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


McClure, John; Chapman, Ralph