Welcome to the Sustainability, Climate Change, & Inequality Lab

Research in our lab explores how group dynamics impact collective action and decision making. We work with interdisciplinary teams to develop new social and behavioral science insights to address climate change and other environmental challenges.

Behavioral science methods and theories offer powerful tools to understand how our social identities and relationships influence how we think about, interact with, and relate to others and the world around us. Much of our research is guided by two central questions: (1) How do social processes impact how we perceive and respond to local and global sustainability challenges, like climate change?; and (2) How can a deeper understanding of these processes promote informed and equitable decision making? To explore these questions, we use quantitative and qualitative approaches, including laboratory and field experiments, interviews, and probability-based surveys.

Our work has been recognized with early career awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology and has been featured in policy briefs and synthesis reports by the U.S. National Academies, the U.S. Fifth National Climate Assessment, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6).

SCI Lab News!

  • Corinne Tsai (lab alum, ’20) and Adam receive the 2023 Otto Klineberg Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Div 9) for the top paper of the year on intercultural or international relations for their article, “Building Diverse Climate Coalitions: The Pitfalls and Promise of Equity- and Identity-Based Messaging”
  • Adam elected a 2024 Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science
  • Lab research is featured in the U.S. Fifth National Climate Assessment (Chapter 20, Social Systems and Justice), which analyzes current trends in global change and projects major trends for the next 25 to 100 years
  • What do Americans understand about climate change inequities? In two new national-level surveys, we find that just 22% of US adults – including only one-third of US Democrats, young adults aged 18-34, and those with a 4-year college or post-graduate degree – recognize racial inequities in climate impacts. In a new article, we consider the implications of this inequality blindspot for mobilizing public support for climate justice policies within the United States
  • Adam and alum Corinne Tsai present research on effective equity and identity-based communication to the Sustainable States Network, a network of  state and local governments representing 2500+ municipalities and counties in 14 states 
  • Lab member Stella Favaro received the Politeia Prize for the top thesis in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program at Pomona and Kevin Hua has recently accepted a position as a lab manager in the Columbia School of Business. Congratulations, Stella and Kevin!
  • What can psychologists contribute to understanding and addressing climate-related health inequities? In a new article in American Psychologist, featuring a trans-disciplinary team of social, clinical, and health psychologists, communication scholars, and health services professionals, we take stock of the current research landscape, spotlight areas of critical need (including infrastructure and community partnerships), and highlight new initiatives that offer a blueprint for advancing actionable research in this area
  • Public appetite for climate solutions is greater than popular narratives of deep social divisions suggest. In a new opinion piece, with Renee Salas and Don Edmondson, we explore the implications for global health advocacy in advance of COP27
  • SCI Lab welcomes new lab members Noah Liedtke, Kevin Hua, Maya Cargile, and Isabelle Abbasi!
  • In May, Adam worked with the American Psychological Association to provide federal policy guidance for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2022 Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan. Their letter to the HHS Secretary Rachel Levine highlights psychology’s critical and unique role in promoting public health and argues that an effective environmental justice plan must increase resources for mental health and social services, partner with community stakeholders, and equip environmental justice communities with effective tools to reduce environmental health disparities.
  • Lab alum Corinne Tsai begins a new position as an environmental justice analyst at the Emerson Collective, and lab member Stella Favaro will join the communications team at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a decarbonization think tank, in 2023. Congratulations, Corinne and Stella!
  • SCI Lab member Ingrid Tsang begins a new position as a software engineer at Plaid in San Francisco. Congratulations, Ingrid!
  • In February, the White House launched a new mapping tool that will help direct climate investments to frontline communities nationwide. In a new op-ed, Adam and Jon Schuldt discuss the hidden dangers and promise with the use of such tools for public advocacy
  • Lab member Stella Favaro publishes opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, “How to talk climate change at Christmas without picking a fight”
  • In a new piece in LSE Business Review with Ana Sabherwal and Gregg Sparkman, we explore how, when, and why collective anger might act as a catalyst for climate mitigation
  • Our special issue on “Behavioural Climate Policy“, guest-edited with Sander van der Linden and Leaf Van Boven, is now in-print! Contributions from leading researchers on what behavioral science can contribute to climate policy
  • Is public outrage good for the planet? See our take in a new op-ed in Grist, with Ana Sabherwal and Gregg Sparkman
  • In new research in collaboration with the YPCCC and George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication, aggregating over a decade of US nationally representative survey data from 2008–2019, we find that climate change is less politically polarized among people of color in the U.S. Across the political spectrum, people of color are more likely to report that climate change is already happening, will harm the U.S., and (most notably) that it poses a personal danger
  • In new work with Lupe Bacio and collaborators at Cornell and the Environmental Defense Fund, familism – a cultural value prioritizing family over the self – is a substantially stronger predictor of US Latinos’ climate change beliefs, concerns, and policy support than politics, income, or education level. For coverage and discussion, see here
  • Public outrage is easily expressed and rapidly transmitted in the digital age (Crockett, 2017; Sunstein, 2019). In new research with lab alum Ana Sabherwal (Grantham Institute) and Gregg Sparkman, we find that appeals conveying growing public anger about climate inaction within the US enhance perceptions of public mobilization to address climate change and bolster support for climate mitigation across partisan groups
  • Lab research featured in the Union of Concerned Scientists‘ “The Equation,” on the importance of climate diversity to federal policymaking
  • SCI Lab research featured on NPR news and 34+ regional public radio outlets, on why diversity in US federal agencies is key to addressing climate change
  • Lab alum and collaborator Corinne Tsai wins the best paper award at the 2021 SPSP Sustainability Preconference for her talk on “Building Diverse Climate Coalitions.” Congratulations, Corinne!
  • Behavioral Climate Policy Conference held virtually Oct. 23rd, featuring talks and a panel discussion on the state of the science from our special issue in Behavioural Public Policy, sponsored by the CU Boulder Center for Creative Climate Communication and Behavior Change
  • Adam receives the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology (APA Div. 34) 2020 Early Career Achievement Award
  • New findings with collaborators at Cornell, Purdue, and the Environmental Defense Fund show that racial-ethnic minority and lower-income Americans conceptualize environmental issues differently than White and more affluent Americans, an outgrowth of work with 18 community organizations in San Antonio. See coverage here
  • SCI Lab alum Ana Sabherwal wins best student paper award at the 2020 SPSP Sustainability Preconference for work on anger consensus appeals. Congratulations, Ana!
  • Lab alums Rachel Song, Daniel Choi, and Ana Sabherwal begin doctoral programs at U Washington, UCLA, and the London School of Economics, and Corinne Tsai joins MPhil program at U Cambridge. Congratulations Rachel, Daniel, Ana, and Corinne!
  • Research synthesizing over a decade of nationally representative data with collaborators at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that both education and income (but especially education) predict stronger political polarization on climate change. Coverage here
  • New research with Jon Schuldt, Rainer Romero-Canyas, Matt Ballew, and Dylan Larson-Konar shows that people underestimate the environmental concerns of low-income Americans, people of color, and other frontline communities, and that these perceptions are influenced by racial and ethnic diversity in environmental organizations’ promotional materials (see coverage in Nature Climate Change, Behavioral Scientist, and PNAS)
  • NPR’s A Martinez (Take Two) and Al Gore discuss SCI Lab research on the lack of diversity in climate STEM fields and its societal implications
  • Adam elected a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Div. 9) and the Society of Experimental Social Psychology