Photograph of Rachel Howell.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)


Office: L1
Phone: +44 (0)1970 622 608
Fax: +44 (0)1970 622 659
Personal Web Site:

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                     

Recent and Current Research

I completed my PhD on ‘Promoting Lower-Carbon Lifestyles’ in September 2012. 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’). You can read a blog post about this work here.

I am currently working on several research projects 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

One project, funded by the British Academy, involves an experimental approach to examine whether reading about climate change adaptation (coping with the impacts of the problem) has any effect on people’s attitudes towards climate change mitigation (trying to reduce the causes of the problem). A second, ‘Paths to Climate Action’ builds on my PhD work and involves a large-scale study of the values, motivations and formative experiences of climate change mitigators and educators. I am one of a team of researchers involved in the ESRC-funded project ‘Negotiating Neuroliberalism: changing behaviours, values and beliefs’; the project blog is at I am also investigating attitudes towards fracking in Wales compared with Britain as a whole.


Rachel joined DGES 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.



Commissioned report

Whitehead, M., Jones, R., Howell, R., Lilley, R., Pykett, J. 2014. Nudging All Over the World: Assessing the global impact of the behavioural sciences on public policy., Economic and Social Research Council Other


Howell, R. 2014. Using the transtheoretical model of behavioural change to understand the processes through which climate change films might encourage mitigation action. International Journal of Sustainable Development 17 (2) pp. 137-159. 10.1504/IJSD.2014.061778

Book/Film/Article review

Howell, R. 2014. 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott London: Penguin, 2013, 198 pp, 13 graphs, 12 B&W photographs, £6.99 paperback ISBN 978-0-141-97632-7. Area 46 (2) pp. 225-226. 10.1111/area.12073



Howell, R.A. 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) pp. 281-290. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.015

Howell, R. 2013. Promoting lower-carbon lifestyles: The role of personal values, climate change communications and carbon allowances in processes of change. Environmental Education Research 20 (3) pp. 434-435. 10.1080/13504622.2013.836624



Howell, R.A. 2012. Investigating the Long-Term Impacts of Climate Change Communications on Individuals’ Attitudes and Behavior. Environment and Behavior 10.1177/0013916512452428

Howell, R.A. 2012. Living with a carbon allowance: the experiences of Carbon Rationing Action Groups and implications for policy. Energy Policy 41 pp. 250-258. 10.1016/j.enpol.2011.10.044



Howell, R.A. 2011. Lights, camera… action? Altered attitudes and behaviour in response to the climate change film The Age of Stupid. Global Environmental Change 21 (1) pp. 177–187. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.09.004


Commissioned report

Howell, R. 2009. The Experience of Carbon Rationing Action Groups: Implications for a Personal Carbon Allowances Policy., UK Energy Research Centre, Oxford Other