In a potential do as I say, not as I do, scenario assuming the data is valid, individuals defined as most concerned about man-made climate change operate less environmentally friendly in the way they conduct themselves personally than their skeptical counterparts. This was the conclusion of a study authored by University of Michigan and Cornell University researchers.
The one-year review of 600 Americans in the context of climate change appears in the Journal of Environmental Psychology under the headline “Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably.”
For purposes of the study, researchers created three groups: Those who were highly concerned about climate change and, as such, favored government intervention, those who were cautiously worried, and those who fell into the skeptical category.
The Washington Times summarized what the findings revealed about actual day-to-day practices.
“The skeptics were the more likely than the ‘highly concerned’ to recycle, use public transportation and reusable shopping bags, and buy eco-friendly products.”
The study itself concluded as follows:
“[T]he ‘Highly Concerned’ were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions, whereas the ‘Skeptical’ opposed policy solutions but were most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors.”
Belief in climate change predicted greater support for government policies to combat climate change, but skeptics were generally MORE likely to report pro-environmental behavior. https://t.co/9ul19H9hcR pic.twitter.com/33oCSsDKao— Rolf Degen (@DegenRolf) March 24, 2018
The Times noted that researchers were baffled by this outcome, but “it’s possible that skeptics may place more emphasis on personal responsibility than government action.”
The man-made climate change debate has also become extremely politicized. Skeptics are usually found on the right of the ideological spectrum, while the left – which includes a large cohort in politics, media, and academia, including many scientists — insists that global warming is a grave and immediate threat to the world. Against this backdrop, skeptics are often derided as deniers, while their opposite numbers face accusations that they are alarmists.
Reacting to the Michigan/Cornell study, the social justice website Pacific Standard observed that “Regarding climate change skeptics, remember that conservatism prizes individual action over collective efforts. So while they may assert disbelief in order to stave off coercive (in their view) actions by the government, many could take pride in doing what they can do on a personal basis.”
The study authors also suggested that in view of this behavior, climate change policy advocates don’t necessarily have to prioritize convincing skeptics to accept or come over to their point of view about global warming.
Further about personal vs. professional behavior, celebrity environmental activists have come under scrutiny for flying all over the world on private jets and traveling on the ground in gas-guzzling limousines, the Daily Mail noted. “Two of the world’s most influential public figures when it comes to climate change are former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Both have been criticized for lifestyle choices that entail greater use of energy, leaving a bigger carbon footprint.”