How might cultural shifts affect the future viability and effectiveness of institutional design options (e.g., shifts in values and behavior at the individual and household level, shifting cultural paradigms of reference groups, the interaction of personal and cultural changes)? How might institutional changes (e.g., changes in property rights and governance) affect cultural and value shifts?
The HDP has identified two research programs related to this issue: (1) Impacts of Structures and Institutions and (2) Energy Production and Consumption. Both programs are in very early stages of development. A U.S. effort in this area would help the international programs define their directions. There are international research communities that could participate in such programs.
At this time, institutional studies of energy-environment issues are probably best conducted in multiple, low-cost, research projects. They require interdisciplinary groups that include (at a minimum) experts in policy analysis, the relevant energy technologies, and the relevant energy users and management institutions. The mix of disciplines should be dictated by the problem. Although the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manage programs of economic research on global change, they will need to make special efforts to broaden their portfolios to include institutional research and to identify appropriate project managers for institutional studies. It is worth noting that some such studies have been done in DOE national laboratories. Although it makes sense for much of the research on this focused topic to be managed by EPA and DOE, management should not be limited to these agencies because important progress may come from researchers who begin from more basic theoretical questions about community resource management, property rights institutions, and the like. Other agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation, should support research on this topic.