Communicating the social benefits of acting in a climate-friendly way, such as economic development and a more benevolent community, can motivate people to take action on climate change, regardless of their existing beliefs, suggests a study published online in Nature Climate Change. The findings contrast with research suggesting that action is prevented by ideology or relies on personal experience of climate change.
Taking action on climate change remains a low priority in many countries, with political ideology and a lack of concern about the issue often blamed. Typically, activists have tried to address this by presenting the science and consequences of climate change in compelling ways. This strategy, however, has stalled in recent years and has failed to persuade those who remain unconvinced that climate change is a real and urgent problem.
Paul Bain and colleagues looked at an alternative strategy: emphasizing the wider benefits that society gains from taking action on climate change, known as ‘co-benefits’. They collected survey data from more than 6,000 participants across 24 countries spanning all inhabited continents, including the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, China, Brazil and Ghana.
They found that, in all countries, emphasizing the co-benefits increased motivation to take action, regardless of existing attitudes to climate change, political ideology, age, or gender - all characteristics that have been previously shown to impact people’s willingness to act. Emphasizing economic and scientific advancement, and the development of a more moral and caring community, were particularly effective at increasing motivation to tackle climate change. However, they also found that some of the most commonly cited co-benefits, such as reducing pollution or disease, had no significant impact.