Study: Global Climate Threats Make People more “Ethnocentric”

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Two studies have discovered that if you tell people the entire world is threatened by climate change, they focus on protecting the people they care about.


Faced with a challenge that requires a global response, humans cling more tightly to their clan.


The prospect of a dangerously warming planet inspires us to cling more tightly to our tribe. That is the discouraging finding of two newly published studies.

One reports that confronting people with climate-change warnings provoked higher levels of ethnocentrism among residents of a central European nation—and decreased their intentions of acting in Earth-friendly ways. The other finds the threat of global warming increases group conformity, leading people to more tightly endorse the truisms their circle subscribe to.

The results aren’t surprising, if you consider the long line of research that finds threat of any kind tends to foster this sort of solidarity. It’s just that this problem will require a globally coordinated response—not the insular, defensive crouch it apparently induces.

The abstract of the first study;

Undesirable effects of threatening climate change information: A cross-cultural study

Isabella Uhl, Johannes Klackl, Nina Hansen, Eva Jonas

First Published October 30, 2017

Why is the fight against climate change so challenging? Research suggests that climate change information may trigger symbolic defense strategies such as derogative outgroup behaviors (e.g., ethnocentrism) instead of direct attempts to address the problem itself (e.g., proenvironmental behavior). Ingroup affirmation may help decrease symbolic responses. We conducted a 2 (Affirmation: ingroup vs. no affirmation) × 2 (Message: threat vs. control) × 2 (Nation: Austria vs. Argentina) experiment (N = 243) to assess responses to climate change information (direct and symbolic) in participants from individualist and collectivist cultures. Participants responded with higher levels of ethnocentrism and a lower intention to engage in proenvironmental behavior after reading climate change information. This effect was significant in Austria. Using ingroup affirmation as an intervention tended to foster rather than reduce ethnocentrism. Thus, across cultures people resolve climate change threat in symbolic ways rather than by trying to address the problem itself.

The abstract of the second study;

Closing ranks: Ingroup norm conformity as a subtle response to threatening climate change

Markus Barth, Torsten Masson, Immo Fritsche, Carolin-T. Ziemer

First Published October 26, 2017 Research Article

We tested the hypothesis that climate change threat increases group-based cognition and action tendencies. As ingroups can provide extended primary control, we expected climate change threat to increase conformity with ingroup norms and group protective behavior. In three studies (N = 404), we experimentally manipulated climate change threat (Studies 1–3) and group norm content (Studies 2 and 3). We found that participants under climate change threat more strongly derogated group members who acted against the group’s interests (Study 1). When a specific group norm was made salient, both manipulated (Study 3) and perceived climate change threat (Studies 2 and 3) increased ingroup norm conformity. Importantly, this effect occurred for norms of radical left-wing behavior. This suggests that climate change threat does not necessarily induce a conservative shift. Instead, it elicits group-based defenses whose expression depends on which ingroup and which of its norms are salient.

Read more:

Both studies are paywalled, so we are spared the details of how they frightened their test subjects with climate threats, then observed as test subjects “derogated” members of the group who refused to conform to perceived solutions to the threats.

64 thoughts on “Study: Global Climate Threats Make People more “Ethnocentric”

  1. It’s amazing how they present the perfectly natural urge to look after one’s nearest and dearest first as something negative.

    Don’t these people have normal family and social lives?

      • So therefore it should read:
        “Study: Global Political Climate Threats Make People more “Ethnocentric””

      • What’s wrong with ethnocentrism? An ethnic group cannot preserve its identity unless it is preferential toward it. If the whole world loses its different ethnicities and becomes one amalgamated race, then there is no diversity — and I thought diversity was good.

    • +1
      My thought exactly.
      Besides, it makes no sense to pretend you care for everyone on earth when you don’t care about yourself, family and friends to begin with. Well-ordered charity begins with oneself.

    • Dwest: no, they don’t have normal families and social lives. These are cult members. Their political leaders have no children.
      “France’s Emmanuel Macron has none. Same with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister Theresa May, Italian prime minister Paolo Gentilon, Holland’s Mark Rutte, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Lofven has no biological children. The prime minister of Luxembourg is also childless.”

      • Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand who went to the UN and stood unsuccessfully for the Secretary General of the UN has no children .
        The present newly [ installed } Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has no children .
        The former Prime minister Bill English of the National party { right of center } has seven children

      • But, of course they still would be quick to use the “Don’t you care about your grandchildren?” routine.

    • Yes, globalists are repulsed by people acting in their own best, local interests. To them, the ‘locals’ are insignificant pawns on the chess board of ‘the greater good’.

    • “It’s amazing how they present the perfectly natural urge to look after one’s nearest and dearest first as something negative.”

      That’s because in their view it’s a form of racism. And to a minor degree, they have a point.

      Food for thought: Ethnocentrism (the urge to look after one’s nearest and dearest first) is so ingrained in most organisms that it’s a major driver of evolution and the origin of new species: “Birds of a feather flock together” and so on… But following this logic far enough can lead one to conclude that nature is inherently racist. And of course, this causes liberal’s heads to explode.

      Again, this is just food for thought. Please don’t call me a racist. I am not.

      • These days questioning the orthodoxy of left at any sector means you are racist. Also, one of the dogmas is we are all racists by biology and because of that, required to constantly fight racism through “reverse” racism, racism against your own peer group. Which is not a race, since races don’t exist. But it is always ‘white’, as the orthodoxy only acts in the Western culture and minorities are excluded from this obligatory act of posing.

        I’m living in a multiancestral, very diversely pigmented family (using words I carefully selected) so I take the right to say this. There are real racists, not many, but much of the racism which we actually not often see, is more on the sector of ‘using racial eponyms as a tool of insult for non-racial purposes.’

        “They don’t call me with names because I’m different, but when they want to call me names, they obviously use the tool at hand, the racial slur.”

  2. Oh yeah, if a city block was burning down I’d run around saving my neighbors first and if my family was still alive afterwards I’d rescue them. Half of the the western world is gravely ill. No sarc intended.

    • Gary, many do. Look at all the fireman, Police and others who in natural disasters do stay on “the Job” and look to help others before checking on their own family.
      I’m not sure I could act like that but some do.


    • “Oh yeah, if a city block was burning down I’d run around saving my neighbors first and if my family was still alive afterwards I’d rescue them. Half of the the western world is gravely ill. No sarc intended.”

      Gary, shame on you! Neighbours first, then your family?
      What about paying for studies on global fire events first?
      The planet needs saving! There are plenty of families, the planet comes first.
      Oh, and those who are trying to save it too, of course, they need funding urgently.

  3. From the article: “Why is the fight against climate change so challenging?”

    Advocates of CAGW don’t have the facts on their side and this makes selling the concept very challenging when trying to convince folks who require proof before believing in what is being sold.

    It won’t get any easier either, as long as you don’t have any evidence of CAGW.

    Hockey Stick charts are *not* evidence of anything. other than evidence of dishonest manipulation of the temperature record for political purposes.

  4. It’s only natural that one takes care of their own family first. Every human being should understands this.

    Trump just gave a speech today in Vietnam to APEC world leaders, where he said he was going to put his country first, just as all the other leaders in the room should be putting their countries first. Trump got big applause for his statement.

    Only fools argue that you don’t put your own familty first. That doesn’t mean you don’t take care of others, too, if you are able.

    • Even on airplanes they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first – before helping others. Human nature and completely functional. I wonder if the citizens of developing nations are home rating “climate change” as the lowest priority among issues (UN survey), while their leaders and UN reps are in Bonn screaming for money to solve the “problem” they don’t care about.

  5. What of those of us that support all life?

    Carbon Based Life Forms = All Life
    When considered as a whole, Carbon Based Life Forms consume Carbon Dioxide.
    CO2 is a base of the food chain for life.

    • Carbon Based Life Forms = All Life

      Do you have any idea how insulting and offensive that statement is?
      It is selfish, self-centered, carbonocentric, and arrogant.
      You may claim that all life on Earth is carbon based.
      That attitude is small-minded and parochial beyond belief.

      You need to get out more. (Hint: American Airlines does not go far enough.)

      {That’s my story and I am sticking to it}

      • It is important to virtue signal for entities we don’t even yet know exist; we wouldn’t want to offend them or anything, after all…

      • Some science fiction stories talk about silicon-based life-forms. So would SiO2 (sand) be a poison on their planet?

    • Interesting, isn’t it…. the three main atoms making up all life are Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen

      But we refer to life on Earth as “Carbon Based”, not Oxygen based, or Hydrogen based.

      That is because Carbon is THE FUNDAMENTAL BUILDING BLOCK..

      All life depends ultimately on there being sufficient atmosphere carbon (dioxide) in the Carbon Cycle.

      400ppm, is barely sufficient !

      • AndyG55

        Now, many people reading WUWT [thanks indeed to Antony] do know that.
        More people should.
        500 ppm [so to the nearest one tenth of a percent, CO2 actually registers as one whole one-tenth of a percent, rather than the current zilch, Nada zero, zippo, SFA] would be better.
        600, 800, even 1000 ppm would be better.
        Maybe even 1500 ppm. Some agriculturalists seem to think so – and put their own money there for their crops [a significant point “and put their own money there “!].

        And, although I have seen no real evidence that CO2 is a Significant warming trace gas – even if it does warm the Earth by a few tenths of a degree, per doubling, [IF] I think that is to be applauded.
        Warmth is an inconvenience for humans – a tropically-originated species, after all.
        Cold kills.


    • actually what they are saying is “Climate Change is RACIST!!!”

      I knew they were going there sooner or later. Just another way to
      say anyone who questions “Climate Change” is RACIST!!!

  6. amazing that “:climate scientists” never have a clue about evolution….temps are supposed to stay the same and people are the borg

  7. It is hard to make the case that electrons are wasted when you live in an alternating current (AC) powered world. The electrons just slosh back and forth, or so they tell me.

    This top post is a good argument for wasted electrons.
    Recently we have had:
    1) Global Warming causes plate tectonic subduction in Fiji.
    2) Global Warming causes mudslides in the pacific northwest of the US.
    3) Global warming prevents the sun from disinfecting lakes.
    4) Global Warming harms beer production in the pacific northwest of the US.

    Wasted electrons, all of it.

    • @BruceC: I have to say I’m guilty of the same, but more on the fresh popcorn end of the day… and for sure, life is good.

  8. Faced with a challenge that requires a global response, humans cling more tightly to their clan.

    Easily frightened tend too seek support from their own peers until only the closest remain. Conversely, the anti-human CACA policies join skeptics across borders.

  9. We’re a global, tribal community…….Who knew.

    But of course what’ll fall out this study is that everyone (except the authors of course) will be told that looking after one’s own is terribly non PC and we should all stop it.

  10. One of the funniest quotes ever:

    ““Anyone who believes there is no such thing as global warming must be blind, or unintelligent,” – Stevie Wonder

    When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
    then you suffer.
    Stupidstition ain’t the way

  11. I didn’t read any of the previous comments. … just posting my first eye-rolling response:

    CO2 causes racism. Someone now needs to write grants to determine whether CO2 lags racism, and then do the cool, high-resolution graphs proving it.

    Happy grant writing.

  12. So the same folks who preach about being nice to each other while holding hands and singing Kumbaya in harmony are the ones who (according to their own data) are feeding racial and ethnic tensions by threatening “the end of the world any minute now”, and now they are sucking up taxpayer money to study their own bad behaviour.

  13. So they found that scaring people with climate change hysteria makes them think less like a communist/collectivist?

    Wasn’t that the whole point?

  14. Someone should study the psychological effects on these researchers when presented with the fact that their entire careers and efforts in life are completely meaningless and are a net drain on society.

  15. What about that slogan: Think Globally – Act Locally

    Are they saying now that idea was wrong?


  16. We need to have pity on the global climate caterwaulists. They have to find just the right mix of both frightening and inspiring people to action. Clearly they haven’t yet, but hope springs eternal.

  17. “The prospect of a dangerously warming planet inspires us to cling more tightly to our tribe. That is the discouraging finding of two newly published studies.”

    Oh darn, I guess self-governance is out of the question, and the beneficent stewardship of some wordily elites who can rise above tribalism is our only hope now . . till we get past this crisis, I mean . .

  18. Understand why these studies were paid for in the first place. I have seen such work on other issues. Pew Foundation does this type of work regularly. The idea is how do they make the propaganda and indoctrination more effective. They are trying to overcome common sense and normal human behavior/ reactions to threats among the targeted populations, in this case those they believe either are not paying attention or that are on the fence. They already know that they cannot sway critically thinking, moderately educated people, especially those that have learned from experience to question mainstream overplayed orthodoxy.

  19. You guys are so lucky. My wife is petcentric. First argument we had started as a joke on my part: If the house were burning, who would you rescue first – me or the cats? I lost. 30+ years later, I still drill with “Don’t let the house catch on fire.”

  20. “The prospect of a dangerously warming planet inspires us to cling more tightly to our tribe.”

    If this were true, why are there so many ‘refugees’ attempting to leave their own communities and move to another (first-world generally) country?

  21. It’s not the threat of a dangerously warming planet that inspires us to cling more tightly to our tribe. It is the threats of those who seek to threaten us with the threat of dangerously warming planet.

  22. At school I got told off for making up words by stringing them together to mean what I wanted them to these people seem to have made it into an art form!

    James Bull

  23. GAAAAACK! please ; can we stop Sociologists from making pronouncements about weather !
    They are stupider than the global warming true believers.
    These are the people who invented Transgender-ism .

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