Co-benefits of addressing climate change can motivate action around the world

Paul G. Bain, Taciano L. Milfont, Yoshihisa Kashima, Michał Bilewicz, Guy Doron, Ragna B. Garðarsdóttir, Valdiney V. Gouveia, Yanjun Guan, Lars-Olof Johansson, Carlota Pasquali, Victor Corral-verdugo, Juan Ignacio Aragones, Akira Utsugi, Christophe Demarque, Siegmar Otto, Joonha Park, Martin Soland, Linda Steg, Roberto González, Nadezhda LebedevaOle Jacob Madsen, Claire Wagner, Charity S. Akotia, Tim Kurz, José L. Saiz, P. Wesley Schultz, Gró Einarsdóttir, Nina M. Saviolidis

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Personal and political action on climate change is traditionally thought to be motivated by people accepting its reality and importance. However, convincing the public that climate change is real faces powerful ideological obstacles1, 2, 3, 4, and climate change is slipping in public importance in many countries5, 6. Here we investigate a different approach, identifying whether potential co-benefits of addressing climate change7 could motivate pro-environmental behaviour around the world for both those convinced and unconvinced that climate change is real. We describe an integrated framework for assessing beliefs about co-benefits8, distinguishing social conditions (for example, economic development, reduced pollution or disease) and community character (for example, benevolence, competence). Data from all inhabited continents (24 countries; 6,196 participants) showed that two co-benefit types, Development (economic and scientific advancement) and Benevolence (a more moral and caring community), motivated public, private and financial actions to address climate change to a similar degree as believing climate change is important. Critically, relationships were similar for both convinced and unconvinced participants, showing that co-benefits can motivate action across ideological divides. These relationships were also independent of perceived climate change importance, and could not be explained by political ideology, age, or gender. Communicating co-benefits could motivate action on climate change where traditional approaches have stalled.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-157
Number of pages4
JournalNature Climate Change
Early online date28 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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