How to fight arguments against climate change?
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Increasing consumer perception of climate change seriousness might be the key for policymakers
In 2019, Wassili Lasarov from Audencia Business School in France and his colleagues published a paper in IJRM on environmental consumption in European countries (IJRM 36(2)). They found that the perception of seriousness of educational campaigns tends to reduce counter-arguing to climate change. These results suggest that policymakers should aim to increase the perception of seriousness instead of creating educational campaigns. But why did this happen? And can this research be extended from Europe to the rest of the world? I had the opportunity to interview Wassili, Robert, and Stefan and get their perspective.
Climate change? Not a big problem
Climate change seems to be an acute problem, and handling it requires consumers to change their consuption patterns. The authors explain that the desired goal of environmentally motivated consumption reduction (EMCR) has two components:
1. The consumption path: "consumers acquire products that are believed to be beneficial for the environment."
2. The anti-consumption path "requires individuals to reduce their extent of consumption, especially of products with potentially harmful implications for the environment" .
This change is not easy, and therefore consumers often come up with counter arguments. These argumants can be denial of the effect (climate change does not exist) or denial of the cause (it exists but it has nothing to do with human behavior). Some people might bring up the small agent argument and claim that the behavior of a single person does not matter in the bigger picture.
Perceived seriesness is the key
What is needed in order to reduce counter arguments and encourage EMCR - provide people with information on climate change, or emphasizing how seriesness it is? The authors found that the effective pathway is to increase the perceived seriousness. Therefore they suggest that policymakers spend less effort on educating consumers about climate change, but rather spend more effort on increasing the perception of climate-change seriousness. They also suggest that policymakers adjust the messages to consider the level of collectivism and individualism of the arget audience to increase the effectiveness of a given campaign.
I asked them if this result can be extended to the rest of the world. To this Stefan answered that collectivism and indivudalism could be expected to work in the same manner in other parts of the globe. It is obviously rare to get a big multi-country dataset, but the findings should be replicable in other countries.
“Our results reveal that the collectivism/individualism dimension is most relevant in qualifying the impact of counter-arguments on EMCR”
About the authors:
Wassili, Robert, and Stefan have expertise in environmental issues, having a background in environmental technology and reducing consumption through relationships. Their earlier research focused on anti-consumption has inspired this paper.
Meet the authors:
Professor of Marketing (Assistant)
Audencia business school
Professor of Marketing (Full)
Grenoble Ecole de Management
Professor of Marketing (Full)
This article was written by
Christina Spetzler Gregersen
Ph.D. candidate at Deakin University, Melbourne.