Beyond the pessimism, here’s how to spur climate action | Trending Viral hub

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It turns out that a pessimistic approach does not always stimulate climate action. New study tells you when it works and when it doesn’t

Double rainbow in dark clouds over huge rock formations

A double rainbow appears during a monsoon storm in Zion National Park, Utah.

Another year of fossil fuel burning record leading to Record global temperatures. Time is running out to solve the climate crisis and catastrophe looms. You are probably used to such headlines, and if you’re like us, you’ve already had your moment of sadness where you felt desperate for the future. But can doom-induced hopelessness be turned into meaningful change? Our recent global study says yes, but these messages must be used wisely.

In 2019, David Wallace-Wells published the archetypal portrait of climate catastrophe. in his book The uninhabitable Earth: life after warming he painted a terrifying landscape of the suffering that awaits us if we do not address climate change. As those gloomy headlinesIt left many people paralyzed by helplessness, fear and disbelief.

Not everyone is a fan of pessimistic messages. Climate scientists like Michael Mann have warned against climate “doomerism” messages that can depress and demoralize the public, assuming that helplessness will simply lead to greater climate inaction. And the title of a new book by Hannah Ritchie clearly says that it is It’s not the end of the world: how we can be the first generation to build a sustainable planet.


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However, there is some evidence that pessimistic messages can spur climate action, as long as they reach the right ears at the right time. For example, research has found that the climate distressclimate anger and the weather anxiety All are associated with greater climate action in some circumstances.

To help determine the precise impact of climate fatalism, we recently completed One of the largest experiments ever carried out on the behavior of climate change.. Together with an international team of 255 other behavioral scientists and climate change experts, we tested the effects of 11 top psychological messages aimed at driving climate awareness and action. This allowed us to test the impact of pessimistic messages against other important messages about climate change (selected by our team of experts).

We recruited a large and diverse sample of more than 59,440 participants from 63 countriesand proven interventions ranging from emphasizing scientific consensus (e.g., noting that “99 percent of expert climate scientists” agree with the facts of climate change), or widespread concern of others (e.g., the majority of people in each nation are concerned), to emphasizing the consequences in the region itself (e.g., increased frequency and severity of wildfires and floods) or the effects of climate change on future generations (e.g. , ask participants to imagine writing a letter about their actions regarding climate change that would be read decades later now).

Our article was recently published in the magazine. Scientific advances, where our findings revealed whereas pessimistic messages were very effective in stimulating the exchange of information about climate change, such as posting it on the Internet or social networks, where negativity reigns. In light of these findings, Wallace-Wells was right to use this style of messaging in his writings.

But Mann and Ritchie were also right to assume that pessimism can demoralize the public and lead them to inaction. We found that this strategy had no effect on political support or climate beliefs; For these results, the most effective interventions were writing a letter to a member of the future generation explaining the climate actions one takes today, or thinking about the consequences of climate change in their region. Pessimism even backfired when it came to more effortful behavior. Listening to these messages actually diminished people’s pro-environmental behavior, which we measure as the effort dedicated to planting trees. Faced with the enormous risks of the climate crisis, actions at the individual level may seem futile.

Therefore, pessimistic messages can do both: induce helplessness and discourage action at the individual level; but also motivate people to spread the word.

Many other messages also failed or backfired when the going got tough. This highlights how difficult it really is to mobilize real, effortful action on climate change. This is the reason why collective action—rather than focusing on individual actions—might be necessary to trigger real progress.

We also found that different people responded differently to different climate messages and that this varies from country to country. To design the most effective messages, scientists and policymakers will need to tailor them to the right audience. To see the effects of our interventions on dimensions such as country of residence, income level, age, ideological inclination, socioeconomic status, gender and also the type of climate action targeted, we created an open access site and easy to use web application.

To our disappointment, we did not find any silver bullets to boost climate action. But our research found several messages that changed beliefs and actions about climate change. This suggests that understanding how different messages work and in what contexts will be critical to changing beliefs, spreading the message, and mobilizing action.

This is an article of opinion and analysis, and the opinions expressed by the author(s) are not necessarily those of American scientist.

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