Publications (FIS)

Distance to climate change consequences reduces willingness to engage in low-cost mitigation actions-Results from an experimental online study from Germany

authored by
Nicolai Heinz, Ann Kathrin Koessler, Stefanie Engel

Adverse consequences of climate change often affect people and places far away from those that have the greatest capacity for mitigation. Several correlational and some experimental studies suggest that the willingness to take mitigation actions may diminish with increasing distance. However, the empirical findings are ambiguous. In order to investigate if and how socio-spatial distance to climate change effects plays a role for the willingness to engage in mitigation actions, we conducted an online experiment with a German population sample (n = 383). We find that the willingness to sign a petition for climate protection was significantly reduced when a person in India with a name of Indian origin was affected by flooding, as compared to a person in Germany with a name of German origin. Distance did not affect donating money to climate protection or approving of mitigation policies. Our results provide evidence for the existence of a negative effect of distance to climate change consequences on the willingness to engage in low-cost mitigation actions. Investigating explanations for such an effect, we find that it can be attributed to the spatial rather than the social dimension of distance. Moreover, we find some cautious evidence that people with strong racist attitudes react differently to the distance manipulations, suggesting a form of environmental racism that could also reduce mitigation action in the case of climate change.

Institute of Environmental Planning
Environmental Behaviour and Planning
External Organisation(s)
Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
Osnabrück University
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 13 - Climate Action
Electronic version(s) (Access: Open)