Framing climate change mitigation efforts in terms of their positive societal effects can encourage deniers to act pro-environmentally, reports research in Nature Climate Change this week. A growing proportion of the public in Western democracies deny anthropogenic climate change, and experts assume that climate deniers need to be ‘converted’ to get them acting in support of mitigation policy. This study questions such common assumption.
Paul Bain and colleagues conducted two studies, based on data collected in Australia in May-July 2011 and February 2012 respectively. In the first study they measured the relationships between beliefs about the social consequences of climate change action and pro-environmental intentions. They found that 155 climate deniers intended to act more pro-environmentally where they thought climate change action would create a society where people are more considerate and caring (Warmth frame), and where there is greater economic/technological development (Development frame). In the second study they examined whether framing climate change action in terms of increasing interpersonal warmth and societal development may be a more effective approach than focusing on the risks of climate change (Real frame) to motivate deniers’ action. In a nationally representative sample of 347 people, they found that using Warmth and Development frames bridged one-third of the gap in pro-environmental intentions between deniers presented with a Real frame and the average of believers.