Gabrielle Wong-Parodi & Irina Feygina (2021) Engaging People on Climate Change: The Role of Emotional Responses, Environmental Communication.

ABSTRACTOvercoming climate change skepticism and disengagement is a pressing challenge. Evidence suggests that reactions to climate science and proposed solutions are strongly driven by emotion. This paper explores whether negative emotional responses to learning about climate impacts support recognition of the reality and risks of climate change, and whether narrative-based climate communication is an effective means of eliciting such emotions. In an experiment among U.S. residents, participants read narratives about climate change-related warming at the North Pole designed to elicit an emotional response. They reported on their emotional reactions; climate change attitudes, intentions, and behaviors; and demographics. We found that experiencing negative emotion increased acceptance of, concern about, and willingness to take action on climate change. Strong negative emotional response was particularly influential in changing climate attitudes for conservatives. A similar pattern of results was, surprisingly, observed for positive emotional response. Climate narratives were successful in eliciting negative and positive emotional responses, across both factual and emotion-laden narratives. These findings suggest that enhancing emotion through climate communication may be a promising tool for counteracting biased assimilation of controversial scientific information, and for engaging audiences who might otherwise dismiss or avoid the issue of climate change for group-identity or ideological reasons.