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Collective Responses to Global Challenges: The Social Psychology of Pro-Environmental Action

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Abstract

The world faces one of its greatest challenges in climate change. As a global challenge, climate change demands a global response. A psychological approach with the goal to motivate large groups to engage in concerted action will need both, a perspective focused on individual factors and a perspective focused on the collective factors. The social identity approach is a promising and underutilized theoretical basis for the latter. In this special issue, we have brought together new and thought-provoking work on the effects of collective-level variables on pro-environmental action that builds on the social identity approach. This editorial will introduce the core idea of the approach and it will argue for its advantages. We will summarize important previous work on some of the essential variables of the approach and we will briefly introduce the contributions to this special issue which will hopefully stimulate more work in the years ahead.
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Collective Responses to Global Challenges: The Social Psychology of Pro-Environmental
Action
Markus Barth1, Torsten Masson2, Immo Fritsche2, Kelly Fielding3, Joanne R. Smith4
1University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, 2University of Leipzig, 3University of Queensland,
4University of Exeter
Author Note
Markus Barth, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld;
Torsten Masson and Immo Fritsche, Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig; Kelly
Fielding, School of Communication and Arts, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences,
University of Queensland; Joanne R. Smith, Department of Psychology, University of Exeter.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Markus Barth, Faculty
of Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, Interaktion1, 33619 Bielefeld.
E-mail: markus.barth@fh-bielefeld.de
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Abstract
The world faces one of its greatest challenges in climate change. As a global challenge,
climate change demands a global response. A psychological approach with the goal to
motivate large groups to engage in concerted action will need both, a perspective focused on
individual factors and a perspective focused on the collective factors. The social identity
approach is a promising and underutilized theoretical basis for the latter. In this special issue,
we have brought together new and thought-provoking work on the effects of collective-level
variables on pro-environmental action that builds on the social identity approach. This
editorial will introduce the core idea of the approach and it will argue for its advantages. We
will summarize important previous work on some of the essential variables of the approach
and we will briefly introduce the contributions to this special issue which will hopefully
stimulate more work in the years ahead.
Keywords: social identity, climate change, pro-environmental action
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COLLECTIVE RESPONSES TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of a worldwide pandemic that led to
drastic changes in behavior and economic hardship for millions of people. Daily updates on
the spread of the virus and the frantic search for vaccines and other solutions kept everyone’s
attention on the topic. In such troubling times, it might be too much to ask to take a step back
and look past the current crises. It is easy to forget that 2020 began with events such as one of
Australia’s worst bushfires and extended fires in California, destroying millions of animals’
lives and their natural habitats as well as endangering the human population on an
unprecedented scale. Central Europe continued to experience a 3-year drought and all-time
temperature records. These are only a few examples of large-scale changes to the world’s
climate that are the result of human behavior. As hard as it is to face the truth, the climate
crisis will not wait until the world recovers from the consequences of Covid-19. As we
approach climate tipping points, decisive action is needed urgently, and psychology is one of
the key fields of science to come up with answers to this challenge.
Global crises such as climate change are complex. No single individual will ever be
able to solve them. Similarly, it is more and more apparent that no single nation or state will
be able to ultimately protect its citizens from the negative consequences of climate change.
This global challenge calls for a truly global response. As such, large groups will need to
engage in concerted action, and psychology will need to offer the tools to do this by
explaining the variables of collective pro-environmental action.
Traditionally, environmental psychology has tended to investigate pro-environmental
behavior as a process of individual decision-making (e.g., Bamberg, 2013; Hines, Hungerford
& Tomera, 1986). Research has revealed several person-level and interpersonal factors that
determine sustainable action (e.g., Bamberg & Möser, 2007; Klöckner, 2013; Verplanken &
Wood, 2006), including personal values, attitudes, goals, habits, as well as personal efficacy
beliefs and beliefs about what significant others want us to do (subjective norms). Although
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this research is invaluable for our understanding of pro-environmental behavior, it is limited
in its ability to account for the collective dimension of such behavior. As the crisis at hand is
the result of collective behavior it must be solved on the collective level as well.
Psychology can help to address the global environmental crisis by highlighting two
important aspects of collective factors. First, we should extend the focus of analysis from
private-sphere environmental behaviors (e.g., recycling behavior) to collective behavior that
takes a more holistic approach and aims to change the ‘systems of provision’ (Fine, 2002).
This may range from typical activist behavior (e.g., signing petitions, joining environmental
protests) to efforts to promote small-scale sustainability innovations (e.g. local energy or food
networks; Seyfang, 2008). Second, we need to consider the human capacity to construct the
self as part of a larger group, as outlined in the social identity approach (Fielding, Terry,
Masser & Hogg, 2008; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). For instance, information about the
consequences of climate change may elicit feelings of personal helplessness, leading to
individual demoralization of environmental issues and apathy (Salomon, Preston, &
Tannenbaum, 2017). Reminding people of their membership in social groups, most notably
groups that are perceived to be effective in fighting environmental crisis, can help to
overcome feelings of helplessness and to motivate (collective) action in favor of
environmental group goals. When individuals consider themselves as members of agentic
groups with pro-environmental goals, they also consider their individual behavior as part of a
collective (i.e. group-based) action: Where I cannot do anything, WE might stand a chance.
However, collective identity may not always work in favor of environmental issues. For
example, the rise of populist movements and the increase of ‘politicized’ collective identity
(Simon & Klandermans, 2001) may limit public acceptance of efforts to protect the planet,
such as the acceptance of ‘green’ policies (Hornsey, Harris, & Fielding, 2018). In other words,
collective processes are at the heart of many of the phenomena and challenges tied to global
environmental crises. Focusing on collective processes should thus benefit both theory
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COLLECTIVE RESPONSES TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES
development and the applied relevance of environmental psychological research to provide
answers to the question of how to support transitions towards sustainability at large.
This special issue offers a great opportunity to cast a spotlight on the collective
dimension through research that focusses on collective variables such as collective efficacy
beliefs, group norms, or collective emotions to explain pro-environmental attitudes and
action. Ideally, our special issue will stimulate more research and motivate our colleagues to
take collective-level variables into account when investigating the factors that support or
hinder pro-environmental action.
In this editorial, we want to briefly outline the theoretical foundation of a collective
perspective. Although a full review is beyond the scope of this article (for reviews see
Ferguson, McDonald, & Branscombe, 2016; Fielding & Hornsey, 2016; Fritsche, Barth,
Jugert, Masson, & Reese, 2018; Fritsche & Masson, 2020), we will provide examples of
important previous research. We will underline the importance of a collective perspective not
only for theoretical work but also regarding applied contexts. Within this framework, we will
then introduce the inspiring research that you find in this special issue.
Core variables of a collective perspective
Social identity has been defined as “that part of an individual’s self-concept, which
derives from his [or her] knowledge of his [or her] membership of a social group (or groups)
together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership” (Tajfel,
1981, p. 251). Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and self-categorization theory
(Turner et al., 1987) form the basis of the social identity approach. Basically, it assumes
people define themselves not only as an idiosyncratic person (“I”) but often in terms of group
membership(s) (“we”), depending on both situational salience of social categories (e.g., due to
contexts of social comparison) and chronic social identifications. When people think and act
as “we”, they perceive, think, and act upon the world in line with what they perceive their
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group’s prototype to be (i.e., ingroup norms). That is, if people perceive themselves to be part
of a group who are fighting climate change with some chance of success, they will be
motivated to themselves engage in pro-climate behavior. Although social identity research
was developed to understand the foundations of intergroup conflict, it has become an
encompassing approach to understand group-based cognition, emotion, and action in various
contexts. The social identity approach has been applied to divergent phenomena, such as
leadership, collective activism, and health (Reicher, Spears, & Haslam, 2010) and, quite
recently, to understand people’s appraisal and response to large-scale environmental crises
(Fielding & Hornsey, 2016; Fritsche et al., 2018; Postmes, Rabinovich, Morton, & van
Zomeren, 2014). On the basis of the social identity approach, four central variables can be
derived that help to explain when and why individuals act to solve climate change, as a
collective crisis: social identification, social norms, collective efficacy, and collective
emotions.
Identification is a necessary precondition for group-based action to occur. Individuals
need to clearly categorize their self in a group, and they need to feel psychologically invested
in the group (Leach et al., 2008). There is almost no limit to the inclusivity of the category
that a person can identify with, ranging from relatively small-scale groups (e.g. members of a
specific sports club) to large scale categories (e.g., citizens of a country) or even all humanity
(Rosenmann, Reese, & Cameron, 2016). Identification can affect the way we appraise
environmental issues and how we react to them. Strong identification with a group of
environmentalists had positive effects on people’s pro-environmental behavior intentions
(e.g., Bartels & Hoogendam, 2011; Cook, Kerr, & Moore, 2002), whereas a strong motorist
identity was associated with reduced willingness to adopt sustainable modes of mobility
(Murtagh, Gatersleben, & Uzzel, 2012). In other cases, the effects of identification will
depend on the salient social norms people attribute to their ingroup. For example, Unsworth
and Fielding (2014) found that salient political group membership affected the acceptance of
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anthropogenic climate change as a function of party identification, decreasing acceptance
among conservative (vs. liberal) participants. While strength of identification captures how
important the group is for their members, ingroup norms and goals give group members’
actions direction and purpose. This also suggests that self-categorization may polarize and
pronounce personal views as the group’s norms will shift personal views closer to the group
prototype.
The extent to which people perceive their group to be effective in reaching its goals
has been described as collective efficacy (Bandura, 2000; van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears,
2008) or ingroup agency (Fritsche & Masson, 2020). Campaigns to increase pro-
environmental intentions were more successful when collective efficacy beliefs were strong
rather than weak (Chen, 2016). Collective efficacy beliefs were also associated with voting
behavior and willingness to sign a petition (van Zomeren, Spears & Leach, 2010), as well as
sustainable consumption and reduced waste production (Morton, Rabinovich, Marshall, &
Bretschneider, 2011). Interestingly, belief in the capabilities of the ingroup might also shape
personal efficacy beliefs. Strong collective environmental efficacy beliefs increased personal
efficacy beliefs, which, in turn, facilitated private-sphere pro-climate actions (Jugert et al,
2016; see also Reese & Junge, 2017). Previous research has tended to investigate the
cognitive processes underlying collective pro-environmental behavior. However, less is
known about the effects of collective emotions on how people appraise and respond to the
environmental crisis. Distinct collective emotions may lead people to ascribe different norms
and goals to their group (Fritsche et al., 2018). For example, information about an ingroup’s
high carbon footprint elicited feelings of collective guilt, leading to increased compensation
intentions (e.g., through donations to environmental causes; Harth, Leach, & Kessler, 2013).
Theoretical advancement of the collective perspective
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COLLECTIVE RESPONSES TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES
More recently, researchers have made significant efforts to integrate such promising
empirical findings on how social identity processes affect individuals’ environmental
behavior. Fielding and Hornsey (2016) offered a social identity analysis of attitudes and
behavior linked to climate change and environmental issues. They cited evidence showing the
link between identification with a group and behavior that is in line with the norms of the
group. Consequently, environmental action depends on environmental values and goals
supported by the ingroup (see above). The authors also highlighted the importance of social
comparisons for the evaluation of the ingroup as an environmentally friendly entity. As a
result of such comparisons, ingroup members’ pro-environmental attitudes and behavior
might decrease or increase. They also discussed the inherent challenge of intergroup distrust
for a global solution to such large-scale challenges as climate change. Of importance, Fielding
and Hornsey went beyond outlining the theoretical framework connecting the psychological
phenomena summarized above. They also offered social identity-based strategies to improve
the situation (e.g., forging superordinate identities to improve intergroup cooperation and
focusing on pro-environmental ingroup norms).
Fritsche et al (2018) have formalized the application of the social identity approach to
the environmental domain through the Social Identity Model of Pro-Environmental Action
(SIMPEA, see Figure 1). The model describes how people appraise, and respond to, large-
scale environmental crises in terms of collective cognition and action. It generalizes previous
social identity theorizing on collective activist action (Thomas, Mavor, & McGarty, 2012; van
Zomeren et al., 2008) to private (environmental) action that is motivated by ingroup norms
and goals. Specifically, the model proposes an initial appraisal as a response to socially-
mediated perceptions of environmental crises resulting in both personal and collective-level
emotions (e.g., personal fear, collective guilt) and motivations (e.g., personal threat, collective
reparation intention). Collective emotions are assumed to fuel collective norms and goals of
environmental behavior. These norms drive group-members’ environmental action (e.g.,
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saving energy) and appraisal (e.g., belief in climate change) together with their degree of
ingroup identification and perception of ingroup efficacy. Also, ingroup norms, identification,
and efficacy are assumed to interact in predicting environmental action; that is, group-
members will act upon ingroup goals the more people are identified with their group and the
more they perceive their group to be efficacious. In addition, the model incorporates
automatic processes of psychological threat defense (Jonas et al., 2014) and group-based
control (Fritsche et al., 2013). Accordingly, people’s sense of personal environmental
helplessness will increase their readiness to think and act in terms of group membership, thus
catalyzing the impact of social identity variables on people’s responses to environmental
crises under conditions of threat.
Figure 1. Social Identity Model of Pro-Environmental Action (SIMPEA; Fritsche et
al., 2018)
Applying the social identity approach to environmental action is an emerging field.
Although some previous empirical research lines and results from environmental psychology
APPRAISAL Emotions & Motivations
(both personal and collective)
Ingroup Norms and Goals
Collective Efficacy Beliefs
RESPONSE
(Pro-Environmental
Behavior)
Ingroup Identification
(e.g., as environmentalists, citizens of a city or a
region)
Environmental Crisis
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COLLECTIVE RESPONSES TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES
speak to, and support, a collective approach (e.g., research on environmental norms; Nolan,
Schultz, Cialdini, Goldstein, & Griskevicius, 2008), more specific evidence for social identity
processes is still rare and most causal paths proposed in SIMPEA are still under-researched.
This special issue aims to change this.
Present work on the collective perspective
The research articles that we have compiled for this special issue investigate the
collective level of climate action in a variety of contexts and with different methodologies.
The findings of the collected works support and expand the social identity perspective that we
have outlined above. While some articles employ genuine social identity perspectives and
constructs (e.g., Geiger, Pasek, Ratcliff, & Weaver; Landmann & Rohmann; Rabinovich et al.;
Schulte, Bamberg, Rees, & Rollin, all this issue), others provide insights from different
theoretical and empirical backgrounds that contribute to the endeavor of uncovering the
collective dimension of climate action (e.g., Mertens & Schultz; Nockur & Pfattheicher, this
issue).
Rabinovich and colleagues apply and test the social identity approach to predict
personal contribution of Maasai pastoralists in communal land management in Northern
Tanzania, preventing soil degradation induced by overuse and climate-change. Specifically,
they propose community identification, group norms and collective efficacy to predict
people’s cooperative environmental intentions, which should be partially mediated via a sense
of personal obligation to conserve. In addition, they tested whether perceived social support
and resulting interpersonal trust may explain personal obligation in highly identified
community members. While structural equation modeling found support for the direct and
(partially) mediated impact of social identity variables, social support and trust did not explain
unique variance in participants’ sustainable land management intentions. This supports the
usefulness of social identity predictors across different domains of climate-related action,
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specifically broadening focus from climate change mitigation to adaptation action. Also,
testing their model in a non-Western culture that is not highly industrialized fills an important
gap as it helps to gauge the intercultural applicability of the social identity account.
Geiger, Pasek, Ratcliff, and Weaver provide data that underlines the importance of
political social identities for determining people’s perception of actual personal and collective
environmental behavior. Specifically, US participants underestimated the actual sustainable
actions of conservatives in comparison to liberals. Such meta-belief in the frequency of a
group’s actions can increase political polarization. Meta-beliefs can work as social norms
telling in-group members if they should or should not act. Consequently, the erroneous belief
that conservatives are less environmentally active than liberals can lead conservatives to
decrease their efforts to act sustainably. Importantly, this process was the result of perceived
differences and not of objectively observable differences. This suggests that perceived
ingroup norms might be biased based on a prototype and influence a group member’s
behavior even in the absence of real differences between groups. Social groups that are linked
to environmentalism and sustainability and that communicate these values openly will
therefore be powerful sources of motivation for strongly identified members.
The attributes and traits that are linked to a specific social identity can change over
time and such changes can actively be promoted by authorities to facilitate collective action
(e.g., Reicher, Cassidy, Wolpert, Hopkins, & Levine, 2006). What it means to be a member of
group X is therefore the result of public discussion and societal shifts. As a result,
environmentalism can become linked to a specific social identity even though that was not
always the case. As an example, Milfont, Osborne, Yogeeswaran, and Sibley present data
from New Zealand suggesting that environmentalism has become a core attribute of the
national identity that is shared by most New Zealanders. Importantly, this belief in a green
national identity affected individual and collective action tendencies. Milfont et al. present
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cross-sectional and longitudinal data, which makes their contribution especially relevant for
ongoing discussions about the long-term causal effects of social identity variables. Their
research, in line with Geiger et al.’s contribution, highlights the importance of incorporating
sustainability and environmentalism in existing social identities to facilitate collective and
individual action.
Pro-climate action has become a prescriptive, or injunctive, norm in most groups and
societies. Thus, high descriptive norms (Cialdini, 2003) of actual pro-climate behavior in a
group should motivate those members who are not engaging (or engaging at a low rate) in
pro-climate behavior to personally align with the high group standard. The contribution by
Mertens and Schultz empirically tests the effect that comparison feedback of personal and
ingroup performance has on people’s own environmental action, in an effortful field
experiment on actual domestic waste diversion behavior in Californian households. Also, they
were interested in comparing the effectiveness of different referent groups that vary with
regard to their specificity, or inclusiveness, such as the neighborhood, inhabitants of a city, or
citizens of a state. They found that individual upward comparison with a referent ingroup
norm increased people’s actual waste diversion compared to participants that did not receive
any comparison feedback. Of interest, the effect was present irrespective of how inclusive the
referent ingroup was. This goes against the authors’ initial assumption that more “specific”
referent groups would have a stronger effect. However, the result is quite consistent with the
social identity perspective. Accordingly, situational salience of group membership and
people’s chronic identification, but not the size or exclusivity of a group, should determine
which of these identities become self-defining and which norms thus become a possible driver
of individual climate action.
Groups offer reference points for personal behavior and they can act as a lens through
which we perceive the world. In addition, groups can create powerful visions of a better
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tomorrow that might then be shared by all its members. The ability to imagine an alternative
to the status quo can facilitate activism and can also increase ingroup identification (Wright,
Schmitt, Mackay, & Neufeld, in this issue). As such, cognitive alternatives are a powerful tool
that groups can use to create direction and goals as well as to develop a stronger emotional
bond with its members. The concept has rarely been investigated within the context of
environmental psychology. Wright et al.’s contribution is therefore a welcome introduction to
the idea of cognitive alternatives. They also offer a novel scale to measure the construct that
has its roots in classic social identity literature. In this way, their contribution is also an open
invitation to all researchers to use cognitive alternatives in their own studies. The present data
suggest that this might be a worthwhile endeavor.
Groups do not exist in a vacuum; they are constantly interacting with each other. Some
in friendly and cooperative ways, others not so much. Competition can motivate people to be
“better” than others, and intergroup competition is no exception. In the environmental context,
the motivation for positive distinctiveness can have beneficial effects on behavior. In two
large studies, Nockur and colleagues investigated the effects of a salient competition goal on
resource use in the context of simulated fishing game. Interestingly, in the condition where
participants were invited to compete to be the most sustainable group, participants decreased
their resource use (i.e. they fished less) relative to a control condition. The competitive goal
had this effect regardless of other group members’ behavior. This suggests that descriptive
social norms can be overruled by more powerful motivations. Competition and gamification
elements might therefore be facilitating factors for more sustainable collective action when
used in moderation. This research also suggests that not only ingroup behavior might elicit
appraisals and reactions but also perceived outgroup behavior and the interaction between
both groups (see also Louis, Taylor, & Douglas, 2005).
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In considering how emotions might influence engagement in collective action, early
research focused on negative emotions such as anger (e.g., van Zomeren et al., 2008). More
recent research has begun to consider positive emotions such as hope (e.g., Hasan-Aslih et al.,
2019) or empowerment (e.g., Drury & Reicher, 2005). In their paper, Landmann and
Rohmann introduce a new emotion: being moved or overwhelmed in a positive way by the
idea that together group members can make a difference. Across both a survey of activists and
sympathizers involved in an ongoing forest protection campaign (Study 1) and an experiment
(Study 2), the authors expand our understanding of how different emotions influence not only
willingness to engage in collective action, but people’s goals for engaging in this action. More
specifically, the authors found that, feelings of being moved mediated the effects of both
collective efficacy and injustice perceptions on collective action, while, in line with previous
research, feelings of anger mediated the effect of injustice appraisals, highlighting that both
paths can be ‘emotional’. Furthermore, the different emotions were associated with different
goals for collective action in Study 2. That is, feelings of anger and perceptions of injustice
were associated with intergroup goals (i.e., to punish environmental wrongdoers), while being
moved and perceptions of collective efficacy were associated with intragroup goals (i.e.,
being part of a movement). Thus, Landmann and Rohmann’s research highlights the role of
positive emotions for pro-environmental collective action and how these are linked to
collective efficacy.
The global environmental challenge that we face today might not be solved by
traditional means. There is reason to believe that to answer this unprecedented crisis we will
need large societal transformations. Ideas of how and in what way this could happen are
discussed in parliaments and bars around the world. Schulte and Bamberg (this issue) argue
that environmental psychology needs to think about and investigate how it can contribute to
societal transformation and highlight social identity as a concept that connects the individual
and societal aspects of transformation processes. Specifically, they propose that social identity
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becomes a key for the emergence of more grassroot movements that have the potential to
challenge the status quo and to bring about change. Their data suggests that identification with
such groups is more strongly related to collective pro-environmental action than individual-
level action. Their results underline the central importance of social identities to mobilize
groups with the goal to change a system fundamentally.
The way ahead
Uncovering the collective dimension of individuals’ pro-environmental action has
great potential for both tackling climate change and building valid theories in environmental
and social psychology. On the application side, designing interventions for fostering pro-
climate action both in private, public, and perhaps activist, contexts should not only allude to
personal benefits and (low) costs but must address the collective self as well. The
effectiveness of these interventions should crucially depend on whether the groups people
identify with share pro-climate convictions, norms, and goals and whether they perceive their
group to be agents instead of descriptive categories. This is not only about interventionists
reminding people about those ingroups or making hidden pro-climate consensus visible
through communication (Mertens & Schultz, this issue). It is also about creating social
contexts of strong action groups and social movements, such as Fridays for Future or local
climate initiatives (Schulte & Bamberg, this issue), that help people to experience and join in
collective climate agency (Fritsche & Masson, 2020).
Beyond providing powerful tools for climate change interventions, social identity
research on climate action also means testing the limits of humanity’s potential for solving
problems of unprecedented magnitude and (social) complexity. There is reason to believe that
while discovering the psycho-social conditions under which individuals and societies act
against a collective threat under conditions of uncertainty (be it a pandemic or global climate
change), we will discover a lot about what we may call the human potential.
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The paper presents a review of carbon management in relation to UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), forms part of a wider study on the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels in Scotland 's public sector with focus on Universities and Local Government Authorities. It compares the CF (carbon footprint), emission sources, and the fossil fuel contribution to the CFs reported in 3 identified articles relating specifically to the estimation of CF for HEIs. The consumption of fossil fuels results in human induced climate change however, fossil fuels boosted the industrialization process and remains the dominant source of global energy consumption. Action in tackling climate change has led to organizations coming under increasing pressures to monitor and report their CFs. HEIs have a key role to play in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions through delivery of scientific research and innovative carbon management solutions, increase in its uptake of renewable energy technologies, educating and training future leaders, and raising public awareness, in contribution to a sustainable society. This paper highlights the need for a shift of focus to reducing fossil fuel reliance in response to climate change and demonstrates how HEIs can impact GHG reductions.
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Purpose This study aimed to develop an integrative model that comprehensively explores the antecedents of pro-environmental intentions in young people. The study follows customer value theory (CVT) and the theoretical framework of the theory of planned behaviour (TPB). Design/methodology/approach Data was obtained from a field survey of two secondary schools in Hong Kong. A total of 279 young people (age range: 10–12 years old; 53.8% males) were recruited to complete the survey. Smart-PLS 3 was used to test the research model with partial least squares structural equation modelling. Findings The findings provided empirical evidence that the perceived values of children regarding environmentalism play an essential role in developing pro-environmental attitudes and behavioural intentions, such as recycling intention and conservation intention. The results support the utility of TPB for its adoption of attitude and behavioural intention as key components of the model. The use of CVT showed that three dimensions of young people’s perceived values, namely, emotional value, functional value and relational value, predict a pro-environmental attitude, while attitude predicts recycling intention and conservation intention. Practical implications This study offers crucial insight for schools and the Education Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region government, who are focussed on spurring the perceived values, attitudes and behavioural intentions of young people towards environmentalism. This study shows that young people’s emotional values, functional values and relational values are important for transforming pro-environmental attitudes into behavioural intentions in young people. Originality/value This study measured the impact of young people’s perceived values on pro-environmental intentions. Few studies address how perceived values affect young people’s pro-environmental behaviour. This study integrates CVT and TPB to explore the source of young people’s pro-environmental intentions.
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Studies showing that scepticism about anthropogenic climate change is shaped, in part, by conspiratorial and conservative ideologies are based on data primarily collected in the United States. Thus, it may be that the ideological nature of climate change beliefs reflects something distinctive about the United States rather than being an international phenomenon. Here we find that positive correlations between climate scepticism and indices of ideology were stronger and more consistent in the United States than in the other 24 nations tested. This suggests that there is a political culture in the United States that offers particularly strong encouragement for citizens to appraise climate science through the lens of their worldviews. Furthermore, the weak relationships between ideology and climate scepticism in the majority of nations suggest that there is little inherent to conspiratorial ideation or conservative ideologies that predisposes people to reject climate science, a finding that has encouraging implications for climate mitigation efforts globally.
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Hope is viewed as a positive emotion associated with the motivation to change existing conditions. As such, it is highly relevant for social change, particularly when considering the disadvantaged position of some groups. We here propose that, in the context of asymmetrical intergroup relations, hope may actually undermine motivation for change among disadvantaged group members. Specifically, we distinguish between hope targeted at harmony with the outgroup and hope targeted at social equality. Drawing on insights regarding the consequences of positive intergroup relations, we predict that hope for harmonious relations with the outgroup can undermine the constructive tension required for motivating disadvantaged group members towards equality. Across four studies, involving different intergroup contexts, hope for harmony was negatively associated with disadvantaged group members’ motivation for collective action. We further found that high identifiers from the disadvantaged group are immune to this effect. We discuss theoretical and practical implications for the role of hope in social change.
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Collective efficacy—the belief that one's group is capable of affecting relevant aspects of its environment—has been highlighted as an important predictor of sustainable behavior. It increases people's collective action tendencies, and is important for fostering environmental behavioral change beyond self-efficacy beliefs. The current study addresses two primary goals. First, we tested whether the difficulty of a task increased collective efficacy, and thereby environmental intentions. Second, we explored how collective and self-efficacy in concert predict such intentions. In a combined field-and-survey study, 165 voluntary participants took part in a plastic reduction challenge that was pretested as easy, moderate, or difficult. After being confronted with the task, participants completed an online questionnaire in which, among other variables, specific and general self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and pro-environmental intentions were measured—both general and plastic-reduction specific. Results revealed that (a) collective efficacy was significantly stronger when task difficulty was moderate rather than easy or difficult; and (b) that through specific collective and self-efficacy perceptions, sustainable intentions were gauged—even when controlling for attitudes and social norms. These findings suggest that collective efficacy beliefs are particularly relevant for attaining environmental goals that are neither too easy nor too difficult, and could thus be valuable for communication and policy strategies.
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Although most people understand the threat of climate change, they do little to modify their own energy conservation behavior. One reason for this gap between belief and behavior may be that individual actions seem un-impactful and therefore are not morally relevant. This research investigates how climate change helplessness—belief that one’s actions cannot affect climate change—can undermine the moralization of climate change and personal energy conservation. In Study 1, climate change efficacy predicted both moralization of energy use and energy conservation intentions beyond individual belief in climate change. In Studies 2 and 3, participants read information about climate change that varied in efficacy message, that is, whether individual actions (e.g., using less water, turning down heat) make a difference in the environment. Participants who read that their behavior made no meaningful impact reported weaker moralization and intentions (Study 2), and reported more energy consumption one week later (Study 3). Moreover, effects on intentions and actions were mediated by changes in moralization. We discuss ways to improve climate change messages to foster environmental efficacy and moralization of personal energy use.
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Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing our world. As global temperatures continue to rise, intergroup conflicts over increasingly degraded natural resources are likely to increase. The social identity perspective provides a new approach to developing effective interventions to promote the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. This chapter begins with a discussion of the relationship between climate change and intergroup conflict. It continues by contrasting social identity and individualistic perspectives on behaviour and policy change interventions. The chapter concludes by outlining the implications of a social identity approach for environmental and peace psychology. By offering new insights on intervention, the social identity perspective can help us to better manage climate change and thus encourage a more lasting peace in the world.
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Environmental challenges are often marked by an intergroup dimension. Political conservatives and progressives are divided on their beliefs about climate change, farmers come into conflict with scientists and environmentalists over water allocation or species protection, and communities oppose big business and mining companies that threaten their local environment. These intergroup tensions are reminders of the powerful influence social contexts and group memberships can have on attitudes, beliefs, and actions relating to climate change and the environment more broadly. In this paper we use social identity theory to help describe and explain these processes. We review literature showing how conceiving of oneself in terms of a particular social identity influences our environmental attitudes and behaviors, how relations between groups can impact on environmental outcomes, and how the content of social identities can direct group members to act in more or less pro-environmental ways. We discuss the similarities and differences between the social identity approach to these phenomena and related theories such as cultural cognition theory, the theory of planned behavior and value-belief-norm theory. Importantly, we also advance social-identity based strategies to foster more sustainable environmental attitudes and behaviors. Although this theoretical approach can provide important insights and potential solutions, more research is needed to build the empirical base, especially in relation to testing social identity solutions.
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This study examines the impact of various degrees of fear appeals of climate change on an individual’s intention to engage in pro-environmental behavior, and how possible factors that influence an individual’s intention to engage in proenvironmental behavior vary in different degrees of fear appeals of climate change. The results indicate that the participants who read the low-fear appeal text exhibit more evoked fearful emotion and have more intentions to engage in proenvironmental behavior than do those who read the high-fear appeal text. In addition, an individual’s moral obligations play a crucial role in determining his or her intention to engage in pro-environmental behavior under both low-fear and high-fear appeal conditions. However, under high-fear appeal conditions, an individual’s perception of collective efficacy plays a crucial role in determining his or her intention of engaging in pro-environmental behavior. The results of this study contribute to enhancing the intercultural validation of research on fear appeals applied to people’s pro-environmental behavior in a collective Chinese cultural social context in response to global warming. In addition, the findings provide implications for applying fear appeals to encourage pro-environmental behavior.