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Deceptive sustainability: Cognitive bias in people's judgment of the benefits of CO2 emission cuts
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building Engineering, Energy Systems and Sustainability Science, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8442-8324
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building Engineering, Energy Systems and Sustainability Science, Energy Systems and Building Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2171-3013
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Psychology.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building Engineering, Energy Systems and Sustainability Science, Environmental Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2637-2024
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2019 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, ISSN 0272-4944, E-ISSN 1522-9610, Vol. 64, p. 48-55Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

People's beliefs in the actions necessary to reduce anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are important to public policy acceptability. The current paper addressed beliefs concerning how periods of small emission cuts contribute to the total CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, by asking participants to rate the atmospheric CO2 concentration for various time periods and emission rates. The participants thought that a time period with higher emission rates combined with a period of lower emission rates generates less atmospheric CO2 in total, compared to the period with high emission rates alone – demonstrating a negative footprint illusion (Study 1). The participants appeared to base their CO2 estimates on the average, rather than on the accumulated sum, of the two periods' emissions – i.e. an averaging bias (Study 2). Moreover, the effect was robust to the wordings of the problem presented to the participants (Study 3). Together, these studies suggest that the averaging bias makes people exaggerate the benefits of small emission cuts. The averaging bias could make people willing to accept policies that reduce emission rates although insufficiently to alleviate global warming.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019. Vol. 64, p. 48-55
Keywords [en]
Climate change; Global warming; Averaging bias; Negative footprint illusion
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-29596DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.005Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85066452463OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-29596DiVA, id: diva2:1317938
Available from: 2019-05-24 Created: 2019-05-24 Last updated: 2019-08-22Bibliographically approved

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Holmgren, MattiasKabanshi, AlanLangeborg, LindaBarthel, StephanColding, JohanEriksson, OlaSörqvist, Patrik

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Holmgren, MattiasKabanshi, AlanLangeborg, LindaBarthel, StephanColding, JohanEriksson, OlaSörqvist, Patrik
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Environmental ScienceEnergy Systems and Building TechnologyPsychology
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