To Change Environmental Behavior, Should We Really Tell People the World Is Ending?

The Huffington Post:

This post was co-authored with Elke U. Weber, the Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business at Columbia University’s Business School.

This past week, a report leaked from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated with near certainty that the environmental changes from the last several decades have been caused by people. Perhaps not surprisingly, these types of reports have been met with media coverage that ranges from grim to apocalyptic. An earlier report by the IPCC prompted the fear-evoking 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth. No less dire warnings about the planet’s future abound today. With sea levels potentially rising three feet and average temperatures increasing five degrees by the end of the century, reports noted that cities such as New York and London would be seriously endangered, and mass extinctions could take place. But will ominous scenarios such as these cause people to change their environmentally unfriendly behavior? We think not.

In a paper to be published in Psychological Science, we propose that another way to influence people’s behavior towards protecting the environment is to emphasize the long life expectancy of a nation, rather than its imminent downfall. Our thinking was sparked by theory from the Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

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