What is it about?

This study evaluates the impact of exposure to messages that emphasize the need for changes in individual behavior or in public policy to address climate change. We implemented a large survey-experiment (N=1,915) online through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform that manipulated the presence of recommendations for voluntary behavioral changes or the adoption of new laws to mitigate climate change attributed to a “climate scientist” or to an unnamed source.

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Why is it important?

We found that, regardless of the source of the information, recommendations for behavioral changes decreased individuals’ willingness to take personal actions to reduce greenhouse gases, decreased willingness to support pro-climate candidates, reduced belief in the accelerated speed of climate change, and decreased trust in climate scientists.


It was a pleasure to design this study with my co-authors. I have been surprised by the number of emails we have received expressing interest in it. I believe our results confirm many people's intuitions about how messages recommending voluntary "personal sacrifices" to address a global collective action problem as massive as climate change can "backfire", and I hope it leads to additional research to unpack the precise mechanism(s) that drive the effects we uncover. I hope you find the article thought-provoking.

Toby Bolsen
Georgia State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “Don’t Tell Me What to Do”: Resistance to Climate Change Messages Suggesting Behavior Changes, Weather Climate and Society, October 2020, American Meteorological Society,
DOI: 10.1175/wcas-d-19-0141.1.
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