Impacts of adaptation and responsibility framings on attitudes towards climate change mitigation

R A Howell (Lead Author), Stuart Capstick, Lorraine Whitmarsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

It is likely that climate change communications and media coverage will increasingly stress the importance of adaptation, yet little is known about whether or how this may affect attitudes towards mitigation. Despite concerns that communicating adaptation could undermine public support for mitigation, previous research has found it can have the opposite effect by increasing risk salience. It is also unclear whether people respond differently to information about mitigation and adaptation depending on whether action is framed as an individual or government responsibility. Using an experimental design, this study sought to examine how public attitudes towards mitigation are influenced by varying climate change messages, and how this might interact with prior attitudes to climate change. UK-based participants (N = 800) read one of four texts in a 2 x 2 design comparing adaptation versus mitigation information and personal versus governmental action. No main effect was found for adaptation versus mitigation framing, nor for individual action versus government policy, but we did observe a series of interaction effects with prior attitudes to climate change. Mitigation and adaptation information affected participants’ responses differently depending on their pre-existing levels of concern about climate change, suggesting that mitigation framings may be more engaging for those with high levels of concern, whereas adaptation framings may be more engaging for low-concern individuals. Government mitigation action appears to engender particularly polarised attitudes according to prior concern. Implications for climate change communications are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3
Early online date25 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • climate change
  • mitigation
  • adaptation
  • public attitudes
  • framing


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