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Climate Change in the American Mind: May 2017


5. Motivations to Take Action to Reduce Global Warming

5.1. Four in ten Americans say their family and friends make at least “a moderate amount of effort” to reduce global warming.

The belief that people similar to you are taking action to reduce global warming can be an important motivator for taking action oneself.Cialdini, R. B. (2003). Crafting normative messages to protect the environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(4), 105-109., Doherty, K. L., & Webler, T. N. (2016). Social norms and efficacy beliefs drive the Alarmed segment’s public-sphere climate actions. Nature Climate Change, 6, 879-884. doi: 10.1038/nclimate3025 Four in ten Americans (42%) say their family and friends make either “a great deal of effort” (3%), “a lot of effort” (8%), or “a moderate amount of effort” (31%) to reduce global warming.

More Americans (48%) say their family and friends make only “a little effort” (29%) or “no effort” (19%) to reduce global warming. One in ten (10%) don’t know how much effort their family and friends make.

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5.2. Four in ten Americans say it is at least moderately important to their family and friends that they take action to reduce global warming.

The belief that people want or expect you to take action to reduce global warming can also provide motivation to take action oneself.Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological Science, 18(5), 429-434. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01917.x Four in ten Americans (45%) say it is either “extremely” (5%), “very” (13%), or “moderately” important (27%) to their family and friends that they take action to reduce global warming.

Slightly fewer Americans (43%) say it is “not too” (23%) or “not at all” important (20%) to their family and friends that they take action to reduce global warming. About one in ten (11%) don’t know how important it is to their family and friends.

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5.3. One in four Americans say providing a better life for our children and grandchildren is the most important reason to reduce global warming.

One in four Americans (24%) say providing a better life for our children and grandchildren is the most important reason, for them, to reduce global warming. More than one in ten Americans said preventing the destruction of most life on the planet (16%) or protecting God’s creation (13%) was the most important reason.

Fewer than one in ten said their most important reason to reduce global warming was saving many plant and animal species from extinction (7%), preventing extreme weather (6%), improving people’s health (5%), freeing us from dependence on foreign oil (4%), saving many people around the world from poverty and starvation (4%), protecting one’s own health and wellbeing (3%), creating green jobs and a stronger economy (3%), or improving national security (2%). About one in seven (13%) either said this was not applicable because global warming isn’t happening (11%), or did not choose a reason (2%).

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5.4. A Majority of Americans think humans can reduce global warming, but few are optimistic that we will.

 Nearly half of Americans (48%) say humans could reduce global warming, but it’s unclear at this point whether we will do what is necessary.

Only 7% say humans can and will successfully reduce global warming. Nearly one in four (24%) say we won’t because people are unwilling to change their behavior. Only 12% of Americans say humans can’t reduce global warming even if it is happening.

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