Rachel Howell

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Human Dimensions of Climate Change funded by the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W)
PhD 'Promoting Lower-Carbon Lifestyles', The University of Edinburgh (2012)
MSc Environmental Sustainability, The University of Edinburgh (2007)
Photograph of Rachel Howell.


Email: rah22@aber.ac.uk
Office: L1
Phone: +44 (0)1970 622 608
Fax: +44 (0)1970 622 659
Personal Web Site:http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/s0671956/

Teaching Areas

Modules Taught

Contributes to:

  • Climate Change: Impacts, Perceptions, Adaptations (GG10810)
  • Environmental Policy And Sustainability (GGM3320)

My teaching philosophy: I aim to facilitate Education for Sustainability, rather than Education about Sustainability. Amongst other things this means offering students the opportunity to learn skills as well as facts, to explore their own questions, and to develop their own thinking on the complex moral, social and political issues involved. For me, sustainability and good teaching are both personal concerns as well as academic interests, and I hope to encourage in students a serious engagement with questions of sustainability, as well as the necessary intellectual rigour in approaching them.


Group Affiliation

Research interests

  • Lower-carbon/sustainable lifestyles
  • Pro-environmental behaviour change
  • Energy-related social practices
  • Community-level carbon reduction groups
  • Climate change communications and discourses
  • Personal Carbon Allowances
  • Education for sustainability
  • Interdisciplinary research combining insights from psychology, sociology, and human geography                     

Current Research

I have just completed a PhD on ‘Promoting Lower-Carbon Lifestyles’. I'm interested in behavioural change rather than just increased awareness or concern. You can download an accessible, 3-page summary of my thesis here.

My first project assessed the impact of the climate change film The Age of Stupid. I have also used a model from health psychology to analyse the processes of change used or represented in climate change films, to discuss how such films (and other climate change communications) can encourage behavioural change.

My second project involved interviewing people who have made lifestyle changes in order to reduce their carbon footprints, to understand in depth what has prompted and facilitated such changes. The first paper I've written using this interview data discusses the values, motivations, and routes to engagement of my interviewees. One of the main findings is that, contrary to popular beliefs/stereotypes, they are not all ‘deep greens’ concerned primarily about ‘the environment’ per se, but were often motivated as much or more by concerns about social justice and the impacts of climate change on poor people (in so-called ‘developing countries’).

I am currently developing research projects in my new post working as part of the ‘Human Dimensions of Climate Change’ theme of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W). For information about C3W, please see the website www.c3wales.org


Rachel joined IGES in September 2012 having just completed a PhD on ‘Promoting Lower-Carbon Lifestyles’ at The University of Edinburgh. She also holds an MSc (with distinction) in Environmental Sustainability from The University of Edinburgh, gained in 2007. Prior to starting her PhD in January 2009, Rachel worked as a UKERC researcher at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute. She was a member of the Demand Reduction research group, investigating Carbon Rationing Action Groups - groups of concerned citizens who set themselves a voluntary carbon ‘ration’ each year. Rachel’s previous life involved working at grassroots level with marginalised people: asylum seekers, women involved in prostitution, and homeless people. She has also taught in the Further Education sector and worked for a national Quaker environmental charity called Living Witness Project.

Staff Publications

In Press

  1. R.A.Howell. How might climate change films encourage individual behavioural change? An analysis using the transtheoretical model. International Journal of Sustainable Development. - Please contact me if you do not have access to this journal and would like a copy of this paper


  1. R.A.Howell (2013). Promoting lower-carbon lifestyles: the role of personal values, climate change communications and carbon allowances in processes of change. Environmental Education Research, DOI Please click on the title of the paper for a link to a pre-print copy.
  2. R.A.Howell. (2013). It’s not (just) “the environment, stupid!” Values, motivations, and routes to engagement of people adopting lower-carbon lifestyles. Global Environmental Change. 23(1): 281-290 DOI - Please click on the title of the paper for a link to a pre-print copy.


  1. R.A. Howell (2012). Investigating the long-term impacts of climate change communications on individuals’ attitudes and behavior. Environment and Behavior, DOI - Please contact me if you do not have access to this journal and would like a copy of this paper.
  2. R.A. Howell (2012).Living with a carbon allowance: the experiences of Carbon Rationing Action Groups and implications for policy Energy Policy, 41: 250-258.  DOI - Please click on the title of the paper for a link to a pre-print copy.


  1. R.A. Howell (2011). Lights, camera … action? Altered attitudes and behaviour in response to the climate change film The Age of Stupid Global Environmental Change, 21(1):177-187. DOI - Please click on the title of the paper for a link to a pre-print copy.


  1. R.A. Howell (2009). The Experience of Carbon Rationing Action Groups: Implications for a Personal Carbon Allowances Policy UKERC Final Report. Environmental Change Institute, Oxford. - Please click on the title of the paper for a link to the report.