Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Ann Bostrom Gives NSF Distinguished Lecture on Perceptions and Policy Preferences to Slow or Stop Climate Change

Posted: 5/7/2019 (CSDE Research)

Last week, CSDE Affiliate Ann Bostrom, Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor in Environmental Policy at the Evans School, gave a Distinguished Lecture in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Bostrom discussed how the effectiveness and costs of policies to slow or stop climate change should, for a rational actor, influence policy preferences, but that research on risk perceptions and decision making suggests that emotional responses to climate change may be as or more important.

In a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults we asked people for their own ideas about how to slow or stop climate change, then their judgments of possible policy strategies. A majority supported slowing or stopping climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Respondents differentiated systematically between the ease and effectiveness of actions and assessed government policies as more effective than personal actions. However, they differentiated little between the effectiveness of possible individual actions, or between the effectiveness of diverse government policies. Even after controlling for perceived costs, knowledge, and political ideology, perceived effectiveness of policies is positively associated with policy preferences, as are perceptions of climate change as a proximate risk. Emotions such as concern and fear—but not hope—mediate the influence of these two factors on policy preferences.

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