Persuading people to take climate change more seriously Stan A. Kaplowitz (email@example.com) Edward L. Fink Aaron McCright Central Focus To examine the effect of three communication variables on persuading people to commit to action to control climate change Urgency Earlier surveys (e.g. Leiserowitz) have found that most Americans believe that climate change is a real problem caused by human activity. But not as important as some other problems. Some suggest that since climate change is slow, this reduces sense of urgency Efficacy Fear appeal literature (e.g. Witte) suggests that when people are afraid and feel able to solve the problem, they change their behavior when people are afraid but feel unable to solve the problem, they control their fear Moser: making people fear climate change is not sufficient for problem solving behavior. People need to believe that we can solve the problem. Inoculation Baruch Fischoff suggested that if we simply argue for changing life styles from the assumption that climate change has terrible consequences, We can be undermined by the assertion that scientists do not know the future However, we can inoculate ourselves against that argument by saying (in effect) “We know that the future is uncertain– but isn’t better to be safe than sorry” Sample MSU students from large Intro Sociology class Given 20 minutes to respond to a questionnaire Available at no cost Low Urgency Manipulation The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that increasing CO2 emissions has very serious long-term consequences. High Urgency Manipulation The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that increasing CO2 emissions has very serious long-term consequences. They also agree that if we wait until climate change has gotten more severe before we act, it will be too late to avoid these consequences. Every year, we are adding more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, which is making the danger greater. So we will not start reducing this danger until we drastically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. Gradually slowing down the rate of increase in our carbon dioxide emissions is not good enough. NOW is the time to begin reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. Immediate action is absolutely required. Low Efficacy Manipulation Americans must make a major contribution to reducing climate change. High Efficacy Manipulation Americans must make a major contribution to reducing climate change. Americans also can make a major contribution to controlling climate change if we make conserving energy a top priority. There are fuel efficient cars and light bulbs available. We can buy them right now. Our autos and appliances can incorporate more of the new energy efficient technologies that have already been developed. America can also invest in developing even more energy efficient technologies in the future and make them available to other countries around the world. We Americans can commit ourselves to this, and if we do so we can solve this problem. Certainty Challenged Some people say that if we do not take action now, the serious danger from carbon dioxide emissions is certain. Thus, they claim that reducing carbon dioxide emissions now is worthwhile because it greatly reduces the serious and certain danger from climate change. However, do NOT know that these serious negative consequences of carbon dioxide emissions will actually occur. So, we do not know whether paying these costs now is worthwhile. Inoculation against Uncertainty Some people say that we all know that the future is uncertain and that we do not know that these serious negative consequences of carbon dioxide emissions will occur. So, they say that we do not know whether paying these costs is worthwhile. However, dealing with this problem is like getting vaccinated or buying a car with air bags. Even though these activities have some costs and even though we might not get a serious illness or be in a serious accident, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Certainty Assertion Unchallenged If we do not take action now, the serious danger from carbon dioxide emissions is certain. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions now is worthwhile because it greatly reduces the serious and certain danger from climate change Design 2 (urgency) x 2 (efficacy) x 3 (variants of certainty) factorial To make sure that respondents read and absorbed manipulations, they were asked to summarize each statement Plus Pre- test measures of concern, urgency, efficacy Design of attitude/ belief measures Many were designed to avoid ceiling effects (of most respondents thinking climate change is a major problem) And distinguish different degrees of concern Univariate distribs of attitudes Suppose that 100 units represents how serious a problem cancer is to the world. Compared to cancer, how serious a problem is carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels? _____ units Mode = 100 Median =90 Range = 5 to 1500 Pre-measures of Urgency On a 7 point scale, 82% gave it 5 or more; 15% gave a 7 Dependent Measures If the importance of having a car that appears stylish is 100 units, how important is it to have a car that gets good fuel economy. ____ units median =105 If the importance of having a car that is powerful is 100 units, how important is it to have a car that gets good fuel economy. ____ units median =150 If I buy a car in the next two years, I would try to buy one that gets at least ___ mpg city and highway. Mode = median = 30 mpg with more respondents answering more than 30 than below and range from 12 to 50. In 2007, a law was passed requiring that by year 2020, cars sold in the US must increase their average fuel economy from 27 miles per gallon (mpg) to 35 mpg, an increase of about 30% . By what year do you think that the average fuel economy standard of 35 mpg should be required? I think that this increase in fuel economy should be required by year _____. Median = 2015 (somewhat ahead of law) Pay for Green energy “How much extra per year would you be willing to pay to have your electricity provider switch to such “green” electricity ? Note that in recent years, the average resident of Michigan has spent about $500 per person per year on electricity I would be willing to pay an extra $ _____ per year for “green” electricity. Median = $100 Gasoline tax Some people have proposed increasing the federal tax on gasoline as a means of reducing CO2 emissions. They argue that this will not only encourage purchasing of fuel efficient vehicles; but also a) provide funding for improving public transportation and b) encourage people to use more energy efficient transportation than autos where possible. Suppose that this increase were to take place in two years. What is the highest increase that you would support? I would support an increase in the federal gasoline tax of at most ___ cents per gallon. Median = 4.5 cents per gallon Experimental Manipulation checks: Urgency “I think that if the US is to prevent catastrophic damage to our environment, we must reduce our CO2 emissions by at least 30% in no more than ____ years”. Low urgency median = 10 years, High urgency median = 5 years The manipulation has partial eta-sq of .067 for the manipulation check but pre-measure of urgency had an equally large partial eta-sq. Experimental Manipulation checks: Efficacy III-3 If I make this a major priority, I could reduce my yearly CO2 emissions by ___ % in the next year. III-4 If the US government and industry make this a priority, I believe that America’s yearly emission can be reduced by ___ % ten years from now. III-5 Assuming that climate change is a real danger, how much can the actions that America takes help to eliminate this danger? Let 100% indicate that American actions can totally eliminate this danger and 0% indicates that nothing Americans can do will help. How much do you think American actions can eliminate this danger? I think that American actions can make a _________ % contribution to eliminating this danger. No significant effect of efficacy messages on these Experimental Manipulation checks: Uncertainty Inoculation Some people say that before they would make these sacrifices, they would want to be almost certain (probability close to 100 %) of the bad consequences. Others feel that a very small probability of these consequences (close to 0 %) is enough reason to make these sacrifices. Still others take a view that is in between those views. Before you would support America drastically reducing CO2 emissions, how certain do you need to be that the scientific predictions of negative consequences from CO2 emissions are accurate? Result: In correct direction: Uncertainty inoculation has mean of 50% vs. 56.7% for certainty challenged – but partial eta-sq = .032. but pre-measure of urgency had a much larger partial eta-sq = .140. Predicting Dependent Variables Effect of Experimental Manipulation was miniscule on all dependent variables. Adjusted R-sq never exceeded .01. When the pretest attitudes were added to regression, they sometimes added 10% to Adj R-sq Typically the largest effect was from the pre-test sense of urgency. But with multiple dependent variables, the standardized coefficient of this variable never exceeded .270. Post messages manipulation checks, had much less effect than pretest attitudes. A possible Explanation As a result of a good deal of prior information These are fairly strong attitudes (not easy to change) Therefore experimental manipulation had only a small influence on the manipulation check - Why no effect on dependent variables? Changing R’s view regarding urgency, efficacy or certainty threshold does not immediately translate into changes of the dependent variables: behavioral intentions. The dependent measures require thinking about the implications of these manipulations. This requires more time for thought than our procedure allowed. Long term plans We need to devise a practical experimental procedure that allows and requires more thinking about messages and Has messages that relate more directly to R’s behavioral intentions.
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