The climate movement has been riven lately by a debate pitting individual lifestyle change against systemic change, as if the two compete.
Many experts contend both are needed, and new research links them even more closely. The public is more likely to support systemic action, the study finds, if those advocating it have a low carbon footprint.
“It is really important that scientists, or other messengers who communicate with the public, model those behaviors that reduce carbon emissions to drive their point home,” one of the authors, Professor Elke Weber, said in an interview released yesterday by Princeton University.
“Our new research showed that the carbon footprints of those communicating the science not only affects their credibility, but also affects audience support for the public policies for which the communicators advocated,” said Weber, the associate director for education at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
“In a second study, we show that the negative effects of a large carbon footprint on credibility are greatly reduced if the communicator reforms their behavior by reducing their personal carbon footprints.”
Led by Shahzeen Z. Attari at Indiana University, the researchers presented 3,600 participants with one of six policy proposals.