An international team of scientists has created a tool that can help increase climate awareness and climate action globally by highlighting message themes that have been shown to be effective through experimental research.
The web tool and the methods behind its creation are described in a recently published article, “Addressing Climate Change with Behavioral Science: A Global Intervention Tournament in 63 Countries,” on the preprint server. PsyArXiv.
The tool comes from a study involving nearly 250 researchers and more than 59,000 participants from 63 countries, including Algeria, China, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Peru and the United States.
“We tested the effectiveness of different messages aimed at tackling climate change and created a tool that can be deployed by both legislators and practitioners to generate support for climate policy or to encourage action,” explains Madalina Vlasceanu, assistant professor in the department at New York University. of psychology and lead author of the article.
The tool, which the researchers describe as a “climate intervention web application,” considers a wide range of target audiences in the countries studied, ranging from nationality and political ideology to age, gender , education and income level.
“To maximize their impact, policymakers and advocates can assess which message is most promising for their audiences,” adds paper author Kimberly Doell, a senior scientist at the University of Vienna who led the project with Vlasceanu.
Previous studies have examined the effectiveness of intervention strategies aimed at boosting sustainable intentions and behaviors, such as recycling, use of public transport, and household energy savings. But these have focused on one-off private mitigation actions rather than a broad range of climate-friendly activities and support for systemic solutions. Furthermore, previous work has generally focused on Western industrialized countries, raising questions about the broader applicability of these findings.
Among the messages, the authors of the new article tested presented the consequences of climate change in a “pessimistic” style (for example, “Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity.”).
Another featured examples of successful climate actions taken in the past. An additional intervention asked participants to write a letter to a member of the future generation describing the climate actions they are taking today to make the planet livable in 2055. Others included focusing on the scientific consensus on the facts and the definition of climate action as patriotic or popular action. choice.
To assess the effectiveness of these interventions, the paper’s authors tested participants’ support for several climate-related views, policies, and actions (e.g., “Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity” , “I support increasing carbon taxes on gas/fossil fuels). fuels/coal”, participation in a tree planting initiative).
Finally, the paper’s authors assessed participants’ desire to share information about climate change mitigation on social media: “Did you know that cutting out meat and dairy for just two out of three meals a day could reduce food-related carbon emissions by 60%? Data was collected between July 2022 and May 2023.
Overall, although responses varied widely based on participants’ geographic location, demographics, and beliefs, 86% recognized the dangers posed by climate change and more than 70% supported systemic/collective action to combat against climate change.
“These responses reveal a global consensus on the dangers posed by climate change and the importance of implementing climate change mitigation measures at a systemic level,” observes Jay Van Bavel, professor of psychology at NYU and one of the authors of the article. “It is important that people realize that there is an overwhelming global consensus on this issue.”
However, there were notable differences between countries in terms of responses to the same messages or interventions. For example, emphasizing the scientific consensus on climate change (i.e., “Ninety-nine percent of scientists with expertise in climate change agree that the Earth is warming and that the climate change is occurring, primarily because of human activity.”) increased support for climate-friendly policies. by 9% in Romania, but decreased by 5% in Canada.
Asking participants to write a letter to a socially close child as a member of the future generation had the following effects:
- The intervention increased support for climate policy in the following countries: the United States (10%), Brazil (10%), Ghana (8%), Russia (7%), and Nigeria (5%). %).
- The intervention slightly reduced political support in the United Arab Emirates and Serbia (3%) as well as India (2%).
Among participants who used social media, willingness to share information about climate change on these platforms generally increased in response to all interventions tested. Notably, the largest gains occurred after participants read facts about the negative impacts of climate change – a “pessimistic” style message. After hearing these messages, participants were 12% more likely to share pro-environmental messages on social media.
Conversely, no intervention increased support for the action tested: a tree planting initiative. In fact, some interventions decreased the likelihood of expressing willingness to take that action at the individual level.
Taken together, the results shed new light on the effectiveness of climate messages. Some activists have argued for a “pessimistic” style of messaging as a way to encourage action. Others, however, said such messages might have no impact on behavior or, worse, could depress and demoralize the public and drive them into inaction.
The new study supports both approaches, depending on the goal. Although “pessimistic” messages were effective in boosting social media sharing, which researchers recognize as a low-effort activity, they decreased support for tree planting, a task that requires more labor. Additionally, this message decreased political support among study participants who were skeptical of climate change.
“Our results highlight the impact of messages aimed at achieving specific goals,” concludes Vlasceanu. “At the same time, these results clearly show that effective outreach depends on people’s pre-existing belief in climate change, showing that policymakers and advocates need to tailor their outreach to the characteristics of their audience.”
Madalina Vlasceanu et al, Addressing climate change with behavioral science: a global intervention tournament in 63 countries, PsyArXiv (2023). DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/cr5at. osf.io/preprints/psyarxiv/cr5at
Provided by New York University
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