Emotions to fight climate change

Forum Science Emotions to fight climate change

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    Emotions to fight climate change

    Often victims of their bad reputation, because they are considered “irrational”, emotions play a major role in the evaluation of and the behavior of human beings. What is their role in climate perception and action? To answer this question, a of the’ (UNIGE) has systematically reviewed all the literature of the last five years dealing with emotions and climate change, in order to highlight the main levers of action and guide policies in their decision-making.

    It emerges from this study that the based on fear or hope must be carefully measured in order to avoid immobility of citizen action, and that actions in favor of can trigger a virtuous behavior by making their authors feel a sense of pride which pushes them to continue on this path. Results to read in the journal .

    How is climate change viewed from a of emotional? What can be done to encourage the population to adapt its behavior in favor of sustainable development, which alone can counter the ? About 100 studies have examined these questions over the past five years. This is why Tobias Brosch, professor of psychology of sustainable development at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE) and at the Interfacultaire Center in Affective Sciences (CISA) of UNIGE, carried out a review literature from 2015 to 2020 dealing with the role of emotions in the perception and action towards climate change, whether positive or negative, in order to highlight the main levers of action on which to rely political decisions.

    Emotions, the most powerful predicators of sustainable behavior

    On what parameters to base ourselves when we want to communicate on the issue of climate change and encourage sustainable development behavior: the ? Age? The socio-economic? The political party ? Values ​​? Or should we on the contrary put these categories in the background and question the population about their emotions?

    Recent studies have focused on people’s affect on climate change by asking them a simple question: how do they feel about this situation? “The answers most often bring out fear, preoccupation, guilt, but also hope and sometimes pride, “recapitulates Tobias Brosch. The objective was to be able to measure which factor would make it possible to predict with the greatest possible precision the responses relating to perception risk, to the behavior of to reduce climate change, to adaptive behavior to the consequences of global warming, to political support and finally to the acceptance of renewable technologies.

    “It appears that it is the emotional reactions felt that best predict these responses, and not generational factors such as age or political party, as one might have expected,” notes Tobias Brosch. Emotions capture and explain differences in behavior better than other factors, so they must be used to encourage civic action through appropriate communication.

    Finding the right balance between fear and hope

    Communication on climate change is mainly based on an alarmist vocabulary seeking to make citizens feel fear and guilt. But is this the right way to communicate? “To insist too much on the climate, people might feel a sense of helplessness that to think that it’s already too late anyway, so what’s the point of changing your habits? “, explains Tobias Brosch.” On the other hand, so far, this negative effect of fear has not yet really been observed in the climate change, it seems that negative messages rather strengthen the will to act, “he says.

    And what if we conveyed hope? “It was found that very positive communications that convey hope could also lead to stagnation, people giving up on changing their behavior, since in the end “, continues the Geneva psychologist.

    It is therefore a question of finding a happy medium, in order to avoid both the perverse effects of fear and those of hope. Politicians should therefore work with emotional psychologists on the pro-environmental interventions, in order to define the right messages.

    The virtuous circle of sustainable behavior

    We have already observed in social the effect of of , the positive emotion that follows positive behavior. “This a capital role in the mechanism of reinforcement of a virtuous behavior “, supports Tobias Brosch. for sustainable development? “In fact, yes, people who expect to feel good when they act in favor of demonstrate more sustainable behavior. We must then strengthen this as a lever for people who are prone to it, because it will reinforce their good habits and trigger a virtuous circle of actions favorable to sustainable development in the long term “, rejoices Tobias Brosch.” In addition, we should try to trigger this virtuous circle in people who do not yet feel it. “

    The challenge lies in the implementation of strategies and opportunities that will allow citizens to experience this feeling positively during an action in favor of the fight against global warming, so that they want the feel again. “For example, placing his cigarette butt in the compartment” Messi is the best football player “or on the contrary” Ronaldo is the best player “is a stupid example of this positive reinforcement: to vote while throwing his butt in the trash “, concludes the Geneva researcher.

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Forum Science Emotions to fight climate change