Rapid Switch Project

The planet is moving toward a climate crisis. What will it take for governments to take rapid action to move away from high dependence on fossil fuels and severely cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?

Rapid Switch is an interdisciplinary and multi-year initiative to help address the human causes of climate change. It aims to identify, model, and inform solutions for bottlenecks in a rapid transition of society to using all renewable energy. This research aims to provide concrete pathways, exploring the technologies, policies, and behavior change required to quickly decarbonize. The project focuses on the economies of three of the world's major greenhouse gas contributors: China, India, and the United States.

Under a joint research initiative across Princeton's faculty and housed at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, our faculty and researchers at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs are contributing to policy analyses of possible scenarios. For more information about the larger Rapid Switch initiative, visit the Andlinger Center website.

Citizens’ Preferences towards Policies for Rapid Decarbonization

What are citizens’ preferences towards public policies that would facilitate a rapid process of decarbonization? And to what extent are these preferences and opinions influenced by bottom-up forces (such as social changes in conservation behavior or sustainable lifestyle choices) or top-down forces (such as whether laws include features that redistribute resources in society)? 

Our researchers are working on a number of projects to better understand how these factors affect people's preferences, and ultimately their decisions, at local, national, and international levels. These projects take an interdisciplinary approach to examine behavioral, political, economic and infrastructural factors that impact a transition to net zero carbon emissions. Some of the specific scenarios our researchers investigate include:

  • the phase-out of fossil fuel-based cars
  • use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere
  • taxes on carbon emissions
  • the Green New Deal
  • local policies aimed at increasing the generation of offshore wind energy
  • building construct transmission lines for greater infrastructural efficiency

Further projects examine how social norms and institutional practices can facilitate or stall the adoption of new technologies or energy efficient behavior.

These projects employ large-scale survey research on public opinion, online survey experiments, field studies assessing real-world behavior, modeling dynamic systems, and other techniques from a variety of social sciences, including psychology, economics, and political science.

Researcher: Prof. Elke Weber, Gregg Sparkman (Postdoc, Andlinger Center)

India's Energy Transition

Our researchers are assessing short-term and long-term energy transition challenges in India, using this case study to help illuminate the complex social, economic, and political challenges inherent in the decarbonization of rapidly developing economies. Through comparative studies, the project aims to understand political behavior and social norms through methods including conjoint experiments, dynamic systems analysis, and tools from behavioral economics and psychology. The team will also conduct interviews in India with policymakers and residents and design large-scale surveys to study the barriers and opportunities for changing individual preferences, shaping social norms, and creating effective energy policy.

Researchers: Alicia Cooperman (Postdoc, PIIRS and Andlinger Center), Sara Constantino (Postdoc, C-PREE), and Pooja Ramamurthi (PhD student, STEP)