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Study: Climate skeptics engage in more eco-friendly behavior than climate alarmists

A new study suggests those skeptical about climate change and climate alarmism behave in more climate-friendly ways than do those who are very concerned about the issue.

University of Michigan psychology graduate student Michael Hall‘s study looked at 600 Americans who “regularly reported their climate change beliefs, pro-environmental behavior, and other climate-change related measures.”

The results, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, divided subjects into three categories: the “Skeptical,” the “Cautiously Worried,” and the “Highly Concerned.” As you might expect, the “Skeptical” were most opposed to government climate policies; however, they were also “most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors” (emphasis added).

On the other hand, the “Highly Concerned,” while very supportive of government action on climate, were the least likely to behave in eco-friendly ways.

Does this surprise anyone?

Pacific Standard has more:

On seven occasions—roughly once every eight weeks—participants revealed their climate change beliefs, and their level of support for policies such as gasoline taxes and fuel economy standards.

They also noted how frequently they engaged in four environmentally friendly behaviors: recycling, using public transportation, buying “green” products, and using reusable shopping bags. …

While policy preferences of group members tracked with their beliefs, their behaviors largely did not: Skeptics reported using public transportation, buying eco-friendly products, and using reusable bags more often than those in the other two categories.

This pattern was found consistently through the year, leading the researchers to conclude that “belief in climate change does not appear to be a necessary or sufficient condition for pro-environmental behavior.”

Hall and his colleagues can only speculate about the reasons for their results. But regarding the concerned but inactive, the psychological phenomenon known as moral licensing is a likely culprit.

That “moral licensing” certainly sounds like an inconvenient truth regarding the best known climate alarmist, former veep Al Gore. His mansion reportedly uses 21.3 times more kilowatt hours than the average US household — “including 66,159 kWh just to heat his swimming pool [for a year] — but his camp counters with the following:

“[Gore] leads a carbon neutral life by purchasing green energy, reducing carbon impacts and offsetting any emissions that cannot be avoided, all within the constraints of an economy that still relies too heavily on dirty fossil fuels,” said Betsy McManus, Gore’s director of communications.

She just didn’t respond, however, when asked what those offsets are.

MORE: ‘Kids’ sue Florida governor for ignoring climate change threat

MORE: Scholars say recent protests in Iran partly due to climate change

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About the Author
Assistant Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over a decade, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service who holds a B.A. and M.Ed. from the University of Delaware, as well as graduate student membership in the National Association of Scholars.

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