Misperceptions of Global Climate Change: Information Policies
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- Department of Geography 
Global climate change is an atmospheric commons problem where the basic actors arethe states. In democratic nations national policy initiatives depend on the opinion of theelectorate. Unless there is a proper popular perception of climate change, it will bedifficult to undertake appropriate and timely measures. Previous experimental studiesof people’s understanding of climate change and of other renewable resource problemshave revealed that people misperceive the basic dynamics and that they favourdecisions that are systematically biased in the direction of over-utilisation. In thepresent laboratory experiment, with 251 students, the focus is on understanding whypeople misperceive and how misperceptions could be avoided. Using a simulator, thesubjects are asked to control total global emissions of CO2 to reach a given target forthe atmospheric CO2-concentration. Compared to a previous study we find that fullinformation about a simplified system leads to improved performance, particularlyamong students with a background in mathematics. Subjects perform better in ananalogous, however more easily visualisable system, indicating that they havedifficulties forming appropriate mental models of the more abstract atmosphericproblem. Two information treatments, thought to improve mental models, turn out tohave insignificant effects. Finally, information feedback about the development of theCO2-concentration helps. According to our findings, current information from the IPCCand the standard media coverage is not effective in helping people to choose policiesthat are consistent with their own preferences.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
Working Papers in System Dynamics 1/04