Making people aware of eco-innovations can decrease climate despair

Chris Neale, Maura M. K. Austin, Jenny Roe, Benjamin A. Converse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Climate despair—a sense of hopelessness about humanity’s ability to pursue a sustainable future—is emerging as a psychosocial threat. Psychological science conceptualizes hopelessness as a cognitive schema characterized by negative expectancies. Climate hopelessness, then, may be conceptualized as a mental model that represents climate change as a massive problem with futile response options. It manifests in negative expectancies about the future. Here we show that learning about eco-innovations—novel climate-response options—can decrease climate hopelessness. Across 11 experiments (N = 3224), we found that adults (mostly from the USA) reported lower climate hopelessness after viewing videos that depicted eco-innovations (such as a high-tech, net-zero-energy city) than they did in various control conditions, including those that were unrelated to climate (such as a no-video control) and those that depicted more familiar, schema-consistent climate responses (such as living in a rural, intentional community). This research provides causal evidence that thinking about novel climate responses can contribute to a more hopeful outlook, and it identifies technological innovation as one possible seed for such messaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number162
Number of pages21
JournalClimatic Change
Volume176
Issue number12
Early online date22 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

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