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No single solution for changing people’s climate beliefs and behaviours – Expert Reaction

Researchers tested 11 interventions on almost 60,000 participants from 63 countries, including New Zealand and Australia, to see what effect they had on outcomes such as climate beliefs, policy support, and tree-planting.

The new findings, published in Science Advances, found that while some interventions had effects, these varied depending on country, people’s initial climate beliefs, and which outcome was being measured. For instance, “doom and gloom” climate communications made people more likely to share climate information, but less likely to plant trees. The authors say that the small effects and high levels of pre-existing belief and policy support raise questions about how much “bottom-up” change can be made on a global level, and suggest that top-down change might need to be prioritised to achieve the emissions reduction necessary to stay within safe planetary limits.

The SMC asked the authors to comment.

Dr David Moreau, Associate Professor, University of Auckland, comments:

Note: Dr Moreau is a co-author on the study.

“In a groundbreaking study spanning 63 countries, researchers explored the effectiveness of behavioural science interventions in tackling climate change. Through an innovative global tournament, they tested 11 strategies designed to influence climate beliefs, policy support, social media sharing, and participation in a tree-planting task among 59,440 participants. The findings revealed that while interventions had a modest impact, mainly among those already concerned about climate change, their effectiveness varied significantly across different actions and audiences. Notably, some interventions, such as reducing psychological distance and invoking negative emotions, showed promise in certain contexts but not in promoting more effortful behaviors like tree planting. This comprehensive study highlights the nuanced and complex nature of motivating climate action across diverse global populations, emphasizing the need for targeted and tailored approaches.”

No conflicts of interest.