This is something we’ve known about for quite some time, but it is nice to see it quantified. For those who don’t know about the “Weepy Bill McKibben Effect” or the founder of 350.org, here is a good primer.
But my tears started before anyone said a word. As the service started, dozens choristers from around the world carried three things down the aisle and to the altar: pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures; stones uncovered by retreating glaciers; and small, shriveled ears of corn from drought-stricken parts of Africa.
This study helps explain this emotionalism.
The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition
Nicholas Smith1,* and Anthony Leiserowitz
Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming. This article extends this literature by exploring the separate influence of discrete emotions. Utilizing a nationally representative survey in the United States, this study found that discrete emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy support than cultural worldviews, negative affect, image associations, or sociodemographic variables. In particular, worry, interest, and hope were strongly associated with increased policy support. The results contribute to experiential theories of risk information processing and suggest that discrete emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. Implications for climate change communication are also discussed.
In summary, this research found that discrete emotions—especially worry, interest, and hope—appear to have a large influence on American climate change policy preferences. The challenge for communication strategists is how best to cue these powerful motivations to promote public engagement with climate change solutions.
Translation: they need more weepy Bill types to get action they desire, because the climate rationalists of the world just aren’t buying the emotional hype.
The paper is open access, read it here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/risa.12140/pdf