Egoists like climate adaptation but not climate mitigation

In our recent blog post we argued that engaging in climate adaptation does not undermine the willingness of individuals to engage in climate mitigation and vice versa. 

In another study that is currently under review in a peer-reviewed journal (preprint of this study is linked here) we studied what values are typically associated with individual support for climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Values are trans-situational attitude constructs that are very important attributes of human motivation because they manifest in a person’s behavior across various contexts (unlike attitudes that tend to be rather specific) and also because they are relatively stable and change only very slowly (unlike beliefs that often change in response to new information).

In our study, we found that people who support climate mitigation have high biospheric values (tendency to protect the biosphere for its own sake). On the other hand, those who supported climate adaptation are high in either biospheric values or in egoistic values (tendency to engage in activities that benefit oneself). In other words, whereas selfless biospheric motivation is needed for a person to support climate mitigation, there are at least two routes that make people support climate adaptation: one driven by a person’s tendency to protect the biosphere and the other driven by self-interest. Importantly, these results were remarkably stable across four Central European countries in which we carried out the study (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia). 

On a theoretical level, our study shows that while biospheric motivation can motivate both adaptation and mitigation behaviors, egoistic motivation will likely lead only to support for climate adaptation. On a practical level, our study shows that it is more difficult to engage people in climate mitigation than in climate adaptation because the latter, but not the former, is attractive to egoists, who are mainly motivated by their self-interest.  

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