What Emotions Motivate Action on Climate Change?
Effective climate communicators understand that emotion plays a key role in motivating action. What many communicators want to know, however, is which specific emotions they should try to evoke to motivate action on climate change. New research by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently featured by Big Think, however, may help to answer this question. Researchers asked participants to rate how much they supported various policies to mitigate climate change, and which emotions they felt when they thought about the issue.
Researchers found that “worry” about climate change was the strongest predictor of support for policies to mitigate climate change. “Disgust,” on the other hand, was the strongest predictor of opposition to these policies. Interestingly, researchers also found that “fear” did not strongly correlate with support for policies to mitigate climate change. While this research shows correlation rather than causation, it still provides valuable insights that communicators can use to motivate mainstream Americans to support climate solutions.
David Ropeik, Contributor to Big Think
It took a while, but the scientists who study global warming have finally started applying the findings from scientists who study risk communication to the challenge of raising public concern about one of the greatest threats humans have ever faced. Some atmospheric chemists and climatologists and economists have belatedly come to appreciate that trying to influence how people feel about a risk is not simply a matter of teaching them the facts. It’s about presenting those facts in the emotional language most relevant to why people find those facts more worrying, or less, in the first place.
Which makes some new research findings on climate change and emotions important for anyone interested in the issue specifically, or in science and risk communication generally. “The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition” from the Yale Center for Climate Change Communication sampled public opinion about global warming, and asked respondents about which specific emotions they felt as they thought about policies to combat climate change. Instead of just asking people how they felt, as most surveys do, this one tried to figure out WHY.
Image credit: Yale Center for Climate Change Communication via Big Think