|dc.description.abstract||The thesis investigates perceptions of climate change (CC) among stakeholders within Norwegian and German energy sector, and the implications of climate perception for personal behaviour. The main focus of investigation is to examine how climate change is perceived in all its aspects: causes, consequences, measures, policies and the role of the individual confronted with its challenges. The background is to examine how the increasingly dramatised threat of climate change is received and treated by individuals who are daily employed with energy issues, as the energy sector represents one of the major challenges when it comes to solving the problem of climate change. Energy production based on fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to green house gas (GHG) emissions in the developed and newly developing countries, where 70% of the CO2 emissions emerge by the production and consumption of energy. Based on one of the core assumptions of institutional theory, which claims that institutions affect policy and hence the flow of history, the climate perceptions among these respondents may be a neglected factor in the account for the main obstacles to a transition of the current energy systems in Norway and Germany from a fossil-fuel based into a renewable one.
The thesis’ major theoretical approach is explanation-based theory, which emphasises the importance of studying (and comparing) cases within a context. A sample of twenty experts from public and private energy institutions in Norway and Germany was used as a case study. The public institutions present in the thesis are some of the central institutions within the energy sector in both countries. Their areas of responsibility reach from electricity production, power grids, and renewable energy to petroleum production. The private institutions are large scale energy companies involved in electricity and petroleum production.
Qualitative interviews are used as the primary research method. A comprehensive literature review of official documents and previous research on the energy sector in Norway and Germany was nevertheless necessary to create a contextual background against which the empirical findings are analysed. In order to maintain the claim of full anonymity with respect to person and institution, the findings are analysed according to three groups of institutions. The first group consists of institutions that are primarily occupied with conventional energy – here defined as not (new) renewable energy – production, analysis and politics etc; the second includes institutions whose focus is more on renewable energy and climate policy. To simplify, I called them the public/energy group and the public/environment group. The private companies made up the last group; i.e. the private group.
The findings reveal that there are major disparities among the respondents’ climate and energy perceptions, and that group (and sector) belonging is more important for the interviewees’ CC perception and behaviour than their nationality. The public/energy group is mainly constituted of individuals that are sceptical about climate change and critical towards the official climate policies. They do not regard it as a personal responsibility to reduce GHG emissions individually, and have hence not undertaken measures to do so in their private lives. Contrary to the public/energy group, the public/environmental group reflects the outspoken political agenda and expresses confidence in the reports from the international panel on climate change (IPCC). The respondents in this group also stress the individual’s potential for action, and detail about their personal efforts to become more climate friendly. The private group interviewees are all clear that they regard the threat of climate change as real, but they are not as idealistic as the environmental group when it comes to undertake measures in their private lives.
Even though the sample is too small to be generalised, the findings imply that the public/energy group may represent an obstacle for the implementation of major emission reduction measures in Norway and Germany. The fact that the public/energy and private group hold diverging climate perceptions opposes previous research that account for the historical inter-linkages between the two groups. This may be explained with the role of business and industry in the climate negotiations. Other studies have shown that private actors turned from being climate sceptical and lobbying against the creation of binding negotiations into being pro-climate after the signing of the Kyoto protocol. Another explanation can nevertheless be that the respondents from the public/energy group are the persons with the most knowledge about the actual potentials for energy saving, efficiency and development of renewable energy in Norway and Germany. Faced with the enormous challenge of reducing GHG emissions in our highly energy dependent societies, this may make them conclude that the task is infeasible and hence lead towards a denial of the anticipated climate crisis.||eng