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WIREs Clim Change
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Barriers to effective climate change mitigation: the case of senior government and business decision makers

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While the case for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is compelling, actions being taken by most senior decision makers (SDMs) in government and business compound the problem. Given the systemic reach of much senior decision making, including decisions that constrain their own actions, there is an urgent need to open up the SDM black box. Focused on Western governments and multinational corporations, this article examines a cross‐disciplinary range of literature to ask: What are the key factors affecting the preparedness of SDMs—particularly those who accept the climate science—to take the decisive actions needed to drive rapid and significant emission reductions? The review brings together multiple perspectives on the many compounding factors operating across three interconnected scales: micro (individual and interpersonal factors including disciplinary background, worldview, gender, and risk perceptions); meso (network, organizational and institutional factors including management paradigms, organizational culture, and institutional complexity); and macro (environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic factors including climatic extremes, vested interests, and public opinion). It concludes that SDMs are strongly focused on their ‘local’ professional context and near‐term pressures, including reputation among peers, relationships with competitors, and real‐time financial status. As a group they exist within a largely closed circuit and perceive the world from a particular narrow perspective. Combined with the complexity and embedded character of existing systems, this occludes more systemic or reflexive thinking or action. This deep propensity for inaction suggests that a coordinated multi‐frontal approach is essential for a new more effective mitigation approach. WIREs Clim Change 2014, 5:753–773. doi: 10.1002/wcc.305 This article is categorized under: Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Behavior Change and Responses

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