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The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public

Abstract

The annual UN climate summits receive intense global media coverage1,2,3, and as such could engage local publics around the world, stimulate debate and knowledge about climate politics, and, ultimately, mobilize people to combat climate change. Here we show that, in contrast to these hopes, although the German public were exposed to news about the 2015 Paris summit, they did not engage with it in a more active way. Comparing knowledge and attitudes before, during and after the summit using a three-wave online panel survey (quota sample, N = 1,121), we find that respondents learnt a few basic facts about the conference but they continue to lack basic background knowledge about climate policy. Trust in global climate policy increased a little, but citizens were less inclined to support a leading role for Germany in climate politics. Moreover, they were not more likely to engage personally in climate protection. These results suggest that this global media event had a modest appeasing rather than mobilizing effect.

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Figure 1: Source of news about the climate summit.
Figure 2: Engagement with information about the climate summit.

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Acknowledgements

This paper presents findings from the research project ‘Down to Earth’ directed by M. Brüggemann and funded by the German Research Foundations’ cluster of Excellence ‘Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction’ (CliSAP), Universität Hamburg. Further information: http://www.climatematters.hamburg/down-to-earth.

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M.B. and F.D.S.-S. wrote and revised the paper with inputs and feedback from all co-authors; all authors contributed to the design of the study; F.D.S.-S. and I.H. conducted the data analyses and compiled the presentation of the data, supported by D.A. and J.B.S.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Brüggemann.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Brüggemann, M., De Silva-Schmidt, F., Hoppe, I. et al. The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public. Nature Clim Change 7, 783–787 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3409

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