Climate complacency: study finds even the most informed people would rather take the easy option
(The Conversation, 20 Nov 2023) It is often argued that all we need to do is raise awareness of a “global emergency” and rising eco-anxiety means individuals will “do the right thing”. Our new study indicates this just is not the case.
We asked a balanced panel of 381 people about their opinions, beliefs, and awareness of climate change. Participants used a survey to identify which things they would be most willing to change to reduce carbon emissions.
These options varied from small tweaks such as switching to more efficient lightbulbs – an easy change but one that doesn’t hugely reduce emissions – to behavioural changes such as switching to a plant-based diet, which would reduce emissions considerably but requires a much bigger lifestyle change.
We might expect that people who are well aware of the severity of the climate crisis and who already demonstrate high eco-anxiety would opt for larger, more impactful behavioural changes. We might expect that high awareness and emotional engagement would lead to a clear willingness to make larger changes.
But that was not the case. Instead, we found that regardless of an individual’s stated environmental opinion and beliefs most opted for the easiest, but least impactful options. This goes against the oft-expressed view that all we need to do is explain just how bad the situation is and people will change.