Researchers have created a tool that can aid in increasing climate awareness and climate action globally by highlighting messaging themes shown to be effective through experimental research.

The web-based tool, and the methods that led to its creation, are described in the journal Science Advances.

The tool stems from a study involving nearly 250 researchers that drew more than 59,000 participants from 63 countries, including Algeria, China, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States.

“We tested the effectiveness of different messages aimed at addressing climate change and created a tool that can be deployed by both lawmakers and practitioners to generate support for climate policy or to encourage action,” says Madalina Vlasceanu, an assistant professor in New York University’s psychology department and the paper’s lead author.

The tool, which the researchers describe as a “Climate Intervention Webapp,” takes into account an array of targeted audiences in the studied countries, ranging from nationality and political ideology to age, gender, education, and income level.

“To maximize their impact, policymakers and advocates can assess which messaging is most promising for their publics,” adds author Kimberly Doell, a senior scientist at the University of Vienna who led the project with Vlasceanu.

Previous studies have examined the effectiveness of intervention strategies aimed at boosting sustainable intentions and behaviors, such as recycling, public transportation use, and household energy saving. But these have focused on singular private mitigation actions rather than on a broad array of climate-friendly activities and support for systemic solutions. In addition, earlier work has generally centered on western, industrialized nations, raising questions about the broader applicability of these findings.

Among the messages the authors of the new paper tested presented the consequences of climate change in a “doom and gloom” style (e.g., “Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity.”). Another featured examples of successful climate actions people took in the past. An additional intervention asked participants to write a letter to a future generation member outlining what climate actions they are undertaking today to make the planet livable in 2055. Others included emphasizing the scientific consensus on the facts and framing climate action as either a patriotic or a popular choice.

To gauge the effectiveness of these interventions, the paper’s authors tested participants’ support for several climate-related views, policies, and actions (e.g., “Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity,” “I support raising carbon taxes on gas/fossil fuels/coal,” participation in a tree-planting initiative). Finally, the paper’s authors gauged the desire of participants to share climate-mitigation information on social media: “Did you know that removing meat and dairy for only two out of three meals per day could decrease food-related carbon emissions by 60%?” The data were collected between July 2022 and May 2023.

Read the full article about climate action tools by James Devitt at Futurity.