A cautionary note about messages of hope: focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation

Hornsey, Matthew J. and Fielding, Kelly S. (2016) A cautionary note about messages of hope: focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation. Global Environmental Change, 39 26-34. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.003


Author Hornsey, Matthew J.
Fielding, Kelly S.
Title A cautionary note about messages of hope: focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation
Journal name Global Environmental Change   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0959-3780
1872-9495
Publication date 2016-07-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.003
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 39
Start page 26
End page 34
Total pages 9
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Abstract For the first time this millennium, growth in carbon emissions has slowed. Indeed, the year 2014 was the first time in 40 years that the planet saw zero growth in emissions. We examine whether this message of progress can be effective in motivating people to engage in mitigation efforts. This question dovetails with commentary suggesting that gloomy messages about climate change risk fatiguing the population, and that alternative approaches are necessary. It is also informed by work suggesting that hope is a motivating force in terms of engaging in collective action and social change. Study 1 (N = 574) showed that negative emotions were strongly related to mitigation motivation and feelings of efficacy, but hope-related emotions had a much weaker relationship with these constructs. In the main experiment (Study 2: N = 431) participants read an optimistic, pessimistic, or neutral message about the rate of progress in reducing global carbon emissions. Relative to the pessimistic message, the optimistic message reduced participants’ sense that climate change represented a risk to them, and the associated feelings of distress. Consequently, the optimistic message was less successful in increasing mitigation motivation than the pessimistic message. In sum, predictions that the optimistic message would increase efficacy did not transpire; concerns that the optimistic message would increase complacency did transpire. Recent progress in curbing global carbon emissions is welcome, but we found no evidence that messages focusing on this progress constitute an effective communication strategy.
Keyword Climate change
Mitigation
Hope
Efficacy
Framing
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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