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Climate Action for (My) Children

Helena Fornwagner () and Oliver Hauser
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Helena Fornwagner: University of Regensburg

Environmental & Resource Economics, 2022, vol. 81, issue 1, No 5, 95-130

Abstract: Abstract How do we motivate cooperation across the generations—between parents and children? Here we study voluntary climate action (VCA), which is costly to today’s decision-makers but essential to enable sustainable living for future generations. We predict that “offspring observability” is critical: parents will be more likely to invest in VCA when their own offspring observes their action, whereas when adults or genetically unrelated children observe them, the effect will be smaller. In a large-scale lab-in-the-field experiment, we observe a remarkable magnitude of VCA: parents invest 82% of their 69€ endowment into VCA, resulting in almost 14,000 real trees being planted. Parents’ VCA varies across conditions, with the largest treatment effect occurring when a parent’s own child is the observer. In subgroup analyses, we find that larger treatment effects occur among parents with a high school diploma. Moreover, VCA for parents who believe in climate change is most affected by the presence of their own child. In contrast, VCA of climate change skeptical parents is most influenced by the presence of children to whom they are not related. Our findings have implications for policy-makers interested in designing programs to encourage voluntary climate action and sustaining intergenerational public goods.

Keywords: Children; Intergenerational cooperation; Lab-in-the-field experiment; Observability; Parents; Voluntary climate action (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s10640-021-00620-7

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