Misperceptions of Global Climate Change: Information Policies
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Global climate change is an atmospheric commons problem where the basic actors are the states. In democratic nations national policy initiatives depend on the opinion of the electorate. Unless there is a proper popular perception of climate change, it will be difficult to undertake appropriate and timely measures. Previous experimental studies of people’s understanding of climate change and of other renewable resource problems have revealed that people misperceive the basic dynamics and that they favour decisions that are systematically biased in the direction of over-utilisation. In the present laboratory experiment, with 251 students, the focus is on understanding why people misperceive and how misperceptions could be avoided. Using a simulator, the subjects are asked to control total global emissions of CO2 to reach a given target for the atmospheric CO2-concentration. Compared to a previous study we find that full information about a simplified system leads to improved performance, particularly among students with a background in mathematics. Subjects perform better in an analogous, however more easily visualisable system, indicating that they have difficulties forming appropriate mental models of the more abstract atmospheric problem. Two information treatments, thought to improve mental models, turn out to have insignificant effects. Finally, information feedback about the development of the CO2-concentration helps. According to our findings, current information from the IPCC and the standard media coverage is not effective in helping people to choose policies that are consistent with their own preferences.