Her research started with a question, asked by friends and students: what can I do for the climate that really makes a difference?
Kimberly Nicholas and former LUMES masters’ student Seth Wynes decided to find out by analysing data from 39 different sources to see what lifestyle choices are most effective in reducing an individual’s climate footprint in the developed world. In 2017, they published their answer: live car, flight, and meat free, and choose to have a smaller family.
Their research article, The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions, is unique in the way it has reached, and is continuing to reach, a very large audience. The hundreds of media stories, blogs, and social media mentions in outlets around the world are a testament to how the research truly has contributed to increasing public understanding and awareness of how ones’ individual choices affect the climate. The frequent and ongoing mentions of the research in media also illustrate how the research is contributing to changes in attitudes and to an emerging discourse on what responsibility we have as individuals, and how our individual choices can connect to larger communities and systems in stabilizing the climate.
Since the publication of the research, more and more companies and organisations have become aware of the need to reduce flying, and many of them have adopted new travel policies to reduce emissions. There has also been a decrease in domestic flying in Sweden. While it is difficult to ascertain whether these changes in behaviour and attitudes are connected to the research, one can say for certain that the research has had a crucial part in shaping the sustainability and cultural debate on flying. This is evidenced by the widespread media attention and activity in social media forums in Sweden and beyond.
As a result of the research publication, Kimberly Nicholas is now a sought after public speaker on how individuals can make a positive impact for the climate. Her talks and personal appareances in media is helping to further disseminate the research results to audiences of different ages and backgrounds.
Key impacts: changes in attitudes of how individual behavior can impact the climate, initiating societal dialogue on climate change mitigation, environmental and policy impact.