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

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 27 April 2016

This article has been updated


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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Figure 1: Meta-analyses showing average effect sizes (with 95% confidence intervals) and tests for cross-country variability (Q) for climate change importance and co-benefit dimensions with motivations to act on climate change for ‘convinced’ participants (n = 4,049) across 24 countries.
Figure 2: Meta-analyses showing average effect sizes (with 95% confidence intervals) and tests for cross-country variability (Q) for climate change importance and co-benefit dimensions with motivations to act on climate change for ‘unconvinced’ participants from 14 countries (n = 908; student and community combined), and for ‘convinced’ participants (student and community combined) from the same countries.

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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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.

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Authors and Affiliations



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.

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Correspondence to Paul G. Bain.

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Bain, P., Milfont, T., Kashima, Y. et al. Co-benefits of addressing climate change can motivate action around the world. Nature Clim Change 6, 154–157 (2016).

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