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Collective responsibility amplifies mitigation behaviors

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How can individuals be convinced to act on climate change? It is widely assumed that emphasizing personal responsibility for climate change is effective at increasing pro-climate behavior whereas collectively framing the causes of climate change diffuses responsibility and dampens the incentive for individual action. We observe the opposite result. Here we find, across three experiments, that emphasizing collective responsibility for the causes of climate change increases pro-climate monetary donations by approximately 7 % in environmental group members and by 50 % in the general public. Further, highlighting collective responsibility amplifies intent to reduce future carbon emissions. In contrast, focusing on personal responsibility for climate change does not significantly alter donations to climate change advocacy or the intent for future pro-climate behavior. These effects replicate and persist multiple days after treatment.
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Climatic Change (2016) 137:307–319
DOI 10.1007/s10584-016-1670-9
Collective responsibility amplifies mitigation behaviors
Nick Obradovich1·Scott M. Guenther2
Received: 15 October 2015 / Accepted: 30 March 2016 / Published online: 4 May 2016
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract How can individuals be convinced to act on climate change? It is widely assumed
that emphasizing personal responsibility for climate change is effective at increasing
pro-climate behavior whereas collectively framing the causes of climate change diffuses
responsibility and dampens the incentive for individual action. We observe the opposite
result. Here we find, across three experiments, that emphasizing collective responsibility for
the causes of climate change increases pro-climate monetary donations by approximately
7 % in environmental group members and by 50 % in the general public. Further, highlight-
ing collective responsibility amplifies intent to reduce future carbon emissions. In contrast,
focusing on personal responsibility for climate change does not significantly alter dona-
tions to climate change advocacy or the intent for future pro-climate behavior. These effects
replicate and persist multiple days after treatment.
Keywords Climate change responsibility ·Prosocial behavior ·Climate change mitigation
1 Introduction
Many climate messages appeal directly to the individual’s role in emission reductions. For
example, a Sierra Club newsletter touts “Five Simple Things You Can Do About Global
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1670-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized
users.
Nick Obradovich
nobradovich@ucsd.edu
1Department of Political Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San
Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, #0521, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521, USA
2Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, #0521,
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Actions related to climate change mitigation depend on how people think about climate change (Whitmarsh et al., 2011;Doran et al., 2019). Furthermore, it is not enough to be concerned about environmental problems; it is also important that initiates to take responsibility which, according to value belief norms (Stern, 2000) and the norm activation theory (Schwartz, 1977), is an important variable influencing not only norms (Doherty and Webler, 2016) but also directly determining pro-environmental behaviour (Obradovich and Guenther, 2016;Punzo et al., 2019). Therefore, in this paper, we analysed the impact of climate change concern and personal responsibility on 13 separate actions related to climate change mitigation from purchasing low-energy homes to the separation of waste. ...
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... Meanwhile, other authors have found that personal responsibility has the moderate effect on energy conservation behaviour (Dwyer et al., 2015). Analysing personal responsibility, Obradovich and Guenther (2016) showed an insignificant impact, altering donations to climate change advocacy or the intent for future climatefriendly behaviour. Other authors have found ineffective or even reverse effects of responsibility on actions related to climate change (Markowitz and Shariff, 2012). ...
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