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The Role of Social Norms in the Fight Against Climate Change

Armin Falk (), Mark Fallak () and Lasse Stötzer ()
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Armin Falk: University of Bonn, briq Institute
Mark Fallak: Institute of Labor Economics
Lasse Stötzer: briq Institute

No 36, ECONtribute Policy Brief Series from University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract: Of the 2,002 respondents, 71 percent stated that they take personal action against climate change. The re-spondents‘ perceptions about peoples‘ behavior differed: The share of the German population committed to climate protection was estimated at an average of 59 percent. The actual willingness to act against climate change is therefore significantly underestimated (by nearly 70 percent of respondents). When asked if people in Germany should take action against climate change, 85 percent of respondents agreed. However, four out of five respondents underestimate the percentage of people who share their view – the average estimate was 67 percent. The phenomenon that both the willingness of others to act against climate change and the prevailing social norms are systematically underestimated is a form of pluralistic ignorance. The problematic conse-quences of such a misperception can be seen in its negative influence on donations to a climate protection organization in our survey. Many people are conditionally cooperative, i.e., they make their own behavior dependent on the behavior of others. Correcting the misperceptions of others’ cooperation could therefore improve individual willingness to act against climate change. This idea has been tested by briq researchers in a survey experiment in the United States. Correcting the ex-isting misperceptions causally raised the individual willingness to act against climate change and the support for climate policies. The strongest effects are found among individuals who are skeptical about the existence and threat of global warming.

Pages: 7 pages
Date: 2023-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env, nep-exp and nep-soc
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