three pair of hands is holding a plant

New research indicates that our consideration for the climate comes with a price tag

In the scientific community there is a thesis saying that people who want to consume and invest green, that is to say for the good of the environment and the climate, tend to depart from their principles when faced with choices that deviate too sharply from the lifestyles to which they are accustomed. It is easy to buy organic fruit but difficult to change a flight for the train on your vacation. An international research team with social sciences focus has now carried out an experiment that strengthens this thesis.

In the experiment, a number of American citizens received an amount of money that they could either choose to keep themselves or invest in activities that work to prevent global carbon dioxide emissions. Making an investment involved a substantial risk of losing the invested amount. The outcome was that, in general, the participants chose to invest in situations where the stakes were low but not when they were high.

“Thus, the results indicate that people who want to consume and invest green follow their principles primarily when the stakes in their lives are low”, says Giangicaomo Bravo, Linnaeus University, who carried out the experiment together with Mike Farjam, Linnaeus University, and Olexandr Nikolaychuck, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany.

Politicians today put great trust in that society will be able to handle the climate crisis through the fact that citizens are becoming increasingly aware of climate issues and will, consequently, consume and invest greener. Based on their experiment, the international research team calls for politicians to ask themselves how efficient such strategies really are.

“Our research indicates that more well-informed citizens may buy organic fruit, but they tend not to abandon the behaviours that contribute with the largest climate impact, like for instance flying. This means that other types of measures are needed, like taxation and regulation, in order to make people change the behaviours that impact the climate the most. If we are to meet the world’s climate goals, this is of utmost importance”, Giangiacomo Bravo concludes.