Although most people understand the threat of climate change, they do little to modify their own energy conservation behavior. One reason for this gap between belief and behavior may be that individual actions seem unimpactful and therefore are not morally relevant. This research investigates how climate change helplessness—belief that one’s actions cannot affect climate change—can undermine the moralization of climate change and personal energy conservation. In Study 1, climate change efficacy predicted both moralization of energy use and energy conservation intentions beyond individual belief in climate change. In Studies 2 and 3, participants read information about climate change that varied in efficacy message, that is, whether individual actions (e.g., using less water, turning down heat) make a difference in the environment. Participants who read that their behavior made no meaningful impact reported weaker moralization and intentions (Study 2), and reported more energy consumption 1 week later (Study 3). Moreover, effects on intentions and actions were mediated by changes in moralization. We discuss ways to improve climate change messages to foster environmental efficacy and moralization of personal energy use.
; Salomon, E
; Tannenbaum, M
(2017). Climate change helplessness and the (de)moralization of individual energy behavior Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
23 (1) , 15-28.