Notable research of 2023
Justin Rolfe- Redding, Climate Advocacy Lab
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The 100 most common words appearing in the 2023 research resources we highlight below.

Inflation Reduction Act
The community has been great at building up a large body of insights related to implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act+ (the IRA and related federal initiatives).

  • A year of IRA messaging: People are actually more enthused about the possible community benefits than individual consumer savings; and it works to straightforwardly frame the IRA as a climate win, with local benefits.

  • Organize through the weeds: Hammering out the project agreements (Community benefits plans [CBPs], Community benefits agreements [CBAs] and project labor agreements [PLAs]) for clean energy projects can serve as sites for organizing and coalition building.

  • Keep tabs on IRA+ research: Check out the Lab's newsletters from June* and October* on IRA+ research, and our comprehensive and regularly-updated IRA Research Round-up page for everything we have on the topic.

Organizing and Mobilizing
“The climate movement has a recruiting and retention problem” argued an essay last year. To address that, the latest research continues to validate long-standing approaches (such as diverse and inclusive spaces, and social norms techniques), while also offering new takes.

  • Look focused and diverse: Research finds that people are more likely to join social movements that seem demographically diverse and focused on a single issue. This helps the movements appear united, popular, and committed to worthwhile goals.'

  • Bring together the disaffected loners: In a provocative finding, ten years of data indicate that youth who experience social alienation (but not powerlessness) are more likely to participate in social movements (but note that being attached to social networks that talk about climate change may be helpful for engagement, so we don’t want to promote isolation!). 

  • Addressing climate’s recruitment & retention challenges: An essay points to the need to transform movement culture and create accessible pathways into action, by focusing on diversity, relational conditions, easy actions, and supporting leadership.

  • The end of petitions: A longtime student of digital organizing argues for the (current) irrelevance of online petitions; a reminder to always consider actions that your activists will feel are effective, to build their sense of efficacy.

  • Peer pressure works: An analysis of 430 prior studies finds that programs to encourage climate behavior change DO generally work (boosting adoption rates by 7 percentage points on average), and that approaches based on social norms were especially effective. This has potential implications for encouraging advocacy action taking too, where we've also seen the effectiveness of social norms approaches.

We’ve seen growing efforts in recent years to reflect on the successes (and failures) of the strategies pursued by climate advocates (and other movements), with special emphasis recently on understanding how to employ protest.

  • What makes a protest movement successful: Social Change Lab produced a number of pieces in 2022 reviewing research on social movements (herehere, and here), culminating in their full report last year and a succinct summary article. A short piece by other scholars reviews what we do (and don't) know about effective climate protest, including the 'activist's dilemma' between pursuing attention versus popularity.
  • Lessons from Washington State’s success: Use carbon/climate legislation as a vehicle to address priorities across the political spectrum; gain support from the business lobby; and focus attention on benefits, not costs.
  • General wisdom: A new “evidence-based guide to progressive social change” contains reminders to employ frequent, focused, nonviolent protest methods paired with other tactics, along with guidance on messaging, organizing, and mobilizing.
  • Building strong organizations: Advice includes the value of cultures of humility, self-discipline, and love within our movements.

What were your favorite pieces from 2023? Let us know!

Big thanks to our research consultant Sam Zacher for his contributions to this roundup!