About CRED

CRED is an interdisciplinary center that studies individual and group decision making under climate uncertainty and decision making in the face of environmental risk. CRED’s objectives address the human responses to climate change and climate variability as well as improved communication and increased use of scientific information on climate variability and change. In addition to advancing fundamental theory in psychology, behavioral economics, and other social science disciplines, CRED researchers work on integrated field projects around the world, where decision science is brought to bear on sustainable development challenges in such settings as agricultural decisions and water management.

Located at Columbia University, CRED is affiliated with The Earth Institute and partners with various departments and centers across campus. For more information about our partners, see our Partners page. CRED was established as one of four centers under the National Science Foundation Program Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU). Major funding is provided under the cooperative agreement NSF SES-0345840 and NSF SES-0951516.

Mission

CRED’s mission is to comprehend and confront the gap between society’s recognition of environmental problems such as natural hazards and unsustainable consumption and society’s frequent failure to act on the scientific insights, economic analyses, and technological solutions that address these problems. CRED focuses on recent findings in decision science that help explain this gap–the finite nature of human attention, the complex interactions of cognition and emotion in shaping human action, the challenges which uncertainty places on human perception and action, and the profoundly social character of human action.

CRED seeks to remedy this gap through two major streams of activity. It conducts
research in settings such as laboratories and field sites in the US and around the globe, and it carries out a number of forms of outreach, including education, communication guides, advising to local, national and international organizations, and the development of decision support tools which facilitate use of scientific information about the environment and which promote better group decisionsThe flow between the research and the outreach goes in both directions: the research informs the outreach and the outreach provides research opportunities to test hypotheses. Taken together, these two streams of activity advance science and advance society’s capacity to address major environmental challenges.

History

The origin of CRED dates to the mid 1990s, when physical scientists and policymakers began to reach out to social scientists in hope of promoting better utilization of scientific information for the good of society. Information about climate and natural hazards seemed poorly utilized. The questions addressed to social scientists focused on uncertainty, communication, and discounting of the future. One of the clear lessons from that period was that problems posed by geoscience could yield important gains in understanding human behavior. This lead to social science collaborations with The Earth Institute, The International Research Institute for Climate & Society as well as the Center for Hazards and Risk Research. In 2002, Columbia received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for Understanding and Improving Protective Decision Making.

In 2003, the NSF created a new program, Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU), inviting proposals for 5-year grants with a focus on the uncertainties of global climate change. In 2004, NSF awarded Columbia the grant that established CRED. The CRED proposal emphasized the importance of group decisions, as well as individual actions in a group context, for climate-related and other environmental decisions. Four principal investigators (David H. Krantz, Elke Weber, Roberta Balstad, and Kenneth Broad) became the initial co-directors of CRED, and the wider team included many senior scientists from a variety of disciplines. The interdisciplinary perspective of CRED was built out of the collaborations between physical and social scientists during the previous decade.

The first phase of CRED established that principles of individual decision making extend to decision making by groups or by individuals in a group context. One of the top priorities of current research at CRED is to build on earlier work by studying decision-making in the context of identifying, selecting and implementing courses of action in response to environmental challenges.