When galvanizing action against climate change, NGOs and government agencies often operate under the assumption that people are not motivated to act because they view climate change as a problem affecting regions far in the future. While this concept, known as psychological distance, seems counterintuitive, the researchers stated in the journal one land On April 21st, most people see climate change as an important and timely issue even if its effects are not immediately noticeable.
“There is no consistent evidence that perceiving climate change as psychologically distant impedes climate action, with studies reporting mixed results,” the authors, led by Dr.
Van Valkengoed and her colleagues collected the results of public opinion polls that polled people about their views on climate change, some of which included more than 100,000 people from 121 different countries. Surveys have shown that more than 50% of respondents actually believe that climate change is happening now or in the near future and that it will affect their local areas, not just faraway places.
The team also looked at the results of several studies designed to test the relationship between psychological distance and climate action. Of the 26 studies reviewed, only nine found a positive association between psychological distance and climate action. In fact, some studies have shown that seeing climate change as affecting distant places and communities made people want to take more action. The researchers also found that 25 out of 30 studies failed to empirically demonstrate that reducing psychological distance increased climate forcing.
The authors suggest that a widespread misunderstanding about the relationship between psychological distance and climate action could actually hinder progress in mitigating climate change due to social impact. For example, if people believe that others view climate change as psychologically distant and therefore do not take action, they may be less likely to act themselves. Also, they may think their efforts are futile because real environmental change depends on the combined efforts of many.
“We therefore recommend that researchers, communicators and policymakers focus instead on how to benefit from the findings that many people are already seeing climate change happening in the here and now,” the researchers said.
Anne M. van Valkengoed et al, The Psychological Distance of Climate Change Has Been Overestimated, one land (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2023.03.006
the quote: Most People Feel Psychologically Close to Climate Change Find Researchers (2023, April 21) Retrieved April 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-people-psychologically-climate.html
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