Psychological research and global climate change


Human behaviour is integral not only to causing global climate change but also to responding and adapting to it. Here, we argue that psychological research should inform efforts to address climate change, to avoid misunderstandings about human behaviour and motivations that can lead to ineffective or misguided policies. We review three key research areas: describing human perceptions of climate change; understanding and changing individual and household behaviour that drives climate change; and examining the human impacts of climate change and adaptation responses. Although much has been learned in these areas, we suggest important directions for further research.

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Figure 1: A schematic model of the role of psychological processes in climate change.
Figure 2: A simplified model of the way people perceive climate change.
Figure 3: Influences on climate-relevant behaviour.
Figure 4: Mechanisms of climate change impact on human well-being.


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The authors thank J. Taylor of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and C. Werner of the University of Utah for their contributions to the workshop from which this paper developed. We also acknowledge the support of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (NSF award DBI-1052875).

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Correspondence to Susan Clayton.

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Clayton, S., Devine-Wright, P., Stern, P. et al. Psychological research and global climate change. Nature Clim Change 5, 640–646 (2015).

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