• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 27 April 2016

This article has been updated

Abstract

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.

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Change history

  • 18 March 2016

    In the version of this Letter originally published, the following affiliation was missing for Paul G. Bain: Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. This has now been corrected in the online version of the Letter.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the following grants or financial support: Australian Research Council Discovery Project grants to P.G.B. (DP0984678) and to Y.K. (DP130102229); Marsden Fast-Start grant (E1908) from The Royal Society of New Zealand to T.L.M.; MNISW Iuventus Plus Grant IP2014 002273 to M.B.; the Center for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES), FONDAP Na15130009 to R.G.; and the Government of the Russian Federation within the framework of the implementation of the 5-100 Programme Roadmap of the National Research University Higher School of Economics to N.L. Acknowledgement of non-author contributions is in Supplementary Section 5.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

    • Paul G. Bain
  2. School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland 4000, Australia

    • Paul G. Bain
  3. School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Paul G. Bain
  4. Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research and School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6140, New Zealand

    • Taciano L. Milfont
  5. Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Yoshihisa Kashima
  6. Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, Stawki 5/7, 00-183 Warszawa, Poland

    • Michał Bilewicz
  7. Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Herzliya 46150, Israel

    • Guy Doron
  8. Faculty of Psychology, University of Iceland, Oddi v/Sturlugötu, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

    • Ragna B. Garðarsdóttir
    •  & Nina M. Saviolidis
  9. Department of Psychology, Federal University of Paraíba, 58.051-900 João Pessoa, Brazil

    • Valdiney V. Gouveia
  10. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK

    • Yanjun Guan
  11. Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Lars-Olof Johansson
    •  & Gró Einarsdóttir
  12. Universidad Simón Bolívar, Apartado Postal 89000 Baruta, Caracas, Venezuela

    • Carlota Pasquali
  13. Department of Psychology, University of Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora 83000, Mexico

    • Victor Corral-Verdugo
  14. Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid 28223, Spain

    • Juan Ignacio Aragones
    •  & Akira Utsugi
  15. Graduate School of Languages and Cultures, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan

  16. University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, PDPS EA1687, Toulouse 31058 cedex, France

    • Christophe Demarque
  17. Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg 39106, Germany

    • Siegmar Otto
  18. Faculty of Communication, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, Nagoya 470-0193, Japan

    • Joonha Park
  19. Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland

    • Martin Soland
  20. University of Groningen, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Grote Kruisstraat 2/I 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands

    • Linda Steg
  21. Escuela de Psicología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Vicuna Mackenna 4860, Santiago, Chile

    • Roberto González
  22. National Research University, Higher School of Economics, 101000, Myasnitskaya, 20. Moscow, Russia

    • Nadezhda Lebedeva
  23. Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1094 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway

    • Ole Jacob Madsen
  24. Department of Psychology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028, South Africa

    • Claire Wagner
  25. Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

    • Charity S. Akotia
  26. Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QG, UK

    • Tim Kurz
  27. Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de La Frontera, Casilla 54-D, Temuco 4780000, Chile

    • José L. Saiz
  28. Department of Psychology, California State University, San Marcos, California 92078, USA

    • P. Wesley Schultz

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Contributions

P.G.B., T.L.M., and Y.K. designed and coordinated the research project and collected data, with input into design and measures from all authors. P.G.B. analysed the data and wrote the paper, in conjunction with T.L.M. and Y.K. and with input from all authors. M.B., G.D., R.B.G., V.V.G., Y.G., L.-O.J., C.P., V.C.-V., J.I.A., A.U., C.D., S.O., J.P., M.S., L.S., R.G., N.L., O.J.M., C.W., G.E. and N.M.S. also translated materials, collected data and contributed to the manuscript. C.S.A., T.K., J.L.S. and P.W.S. also collected data and contributed to the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul G. Bain.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2814

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