To limit the consequences of the global climate crisis, the global community needs to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions. However, public support for measures to achieve this goal can be attenuated by current crises, which distract people’s attention and make it more difficult to introduce political instruments that entail cost increases. These are the findings of a new study by Laura Seelkopf, professor at LMU’s Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science and co-authors. Consequently, Seelkopf and co-authors Dr. Julian Limberg (King’s College London) and Professor Philipp Genschel (University of Bremen) recommend emphasizing the urgency of climate change and associating the topic with other events perceived as urgent in order to increase support for measures such as taxing fossil fuels.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 21,000 people in 17 European countries with the help of a survey institute, questioning them about their opinion on the introduction of a tax on fossil fuels. The results showed that support for such a tax was twelve percent higher among participants who had been given information about the climate crisis beforehand than among uninformed participants. However, if the respondents were also reminded of other current crises such as Covid-19 or the war in Ukraine after they received information about the climate crisis, their stated willingness to support a tax on fossil fuels fell considerably.

In concrete numbers, initial support for the introduction of the tax was around 28 percent. In the group that received the climate information prompt, this figure rose to around 40 percent, with 35 percent rejecting the tax. In the groups that were reminded of Covid-19 and the Russian invasion, support fell again to 30 percent, with rejection at 45 percent.

Keeping climate change in crisis mode

“Our results help explain why the potential of the climate crisis to increase support for costly countermeasures is limited. Fundamentally, the climate crisis competes with other crises and events which have a shorter time horizon and distract people’s attention. This diminishes the potential of the climate crisis to mobilize support for costly climate policies,” says Seelkopf.

To counteract this, according to the researchers, political decision-makers should place stronger emphasis on climate change as a topic. “They should keep climate policy in crisis mode in order to increase awareness. This can help make citizens aware of the urgency of climate change and the necessity of political measures,” say the authors. As important instruments, they highlight self-imposed deadlines such as the ‘Net Zero by 2050’ scenario of the International Energy Agency or the ‘Fit for 55’ plan of the EU, which regularly remind people that current climate policy is insufficient and lagging behind agreed targets.

Source link