Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers

An Addendum to this article was published on 27 July 2012

This article has been updated


A sizeable (and growing) proportion of the public in Western democracies deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change1,2. It is commonly assumed that convincing deniers that climate change is real is necessary for them to act pro-environmentally3,4. However, the likelihood of ‘conversion’ using scientific evidence is limited because these attitudes increasingly reflect ideological positions5,6. An alternative approach is to identify outcomes of mitigation efforts that deniers find important. People have strong interests in the welfare of their society, so deniers may act in ways supporting mitigation efforts where they believe these efforts will have positive societal effects. In Study 1, climate change deniers (N=155) intended to act more pro-environmentally where they thought climate change action would create a society where people are more considerate and caring, and where there is greater economic/technological development. Study 2 (N=347) replicated this experimentally, showing that framing climate change action as increasing consideration for others, or improving economic/technological development, led to greater pro-environmental action intentions than a frame emphasizing avoiding the risks of climate change. To motivate deniers’ pro-environmental actions, communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society, rather than focusing on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.

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This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP0984678) to the first author. The authors thank A. Mackintosh, M. Manning, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, J. Lawrence and A. Ryan for their comments on manuscript drafts.

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P.G.B. designed the studies, coordinated data collection, analysed the data and wrote the paper. M.J.H. contributed to the design and analysis of both studies and writing the paper. R.B. contributed to the design and analysis of Study 2 and writing the paper. C.J. contributed to the analysis of Study 1 and writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Paul G. Bain.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Bain, P., Hornsey, M., Bongiorno, R. et al. Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers. Nature Clim Change 2, 600–603 (2012).

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