Public Resource

Climate Change in Your Backyard: When Climate is Proximate, People Become Activists

Aaron Spark, Elon University. Frontiers in Political Science
06-30-2021

As climate change is perceived (or experienced) to be more proximate, people are more likely to take political action. A survey experiment of Californians found an 11% increase in climate activism (message writing to policymakers) among respondents who were primed with messages emphasizing the temporal and physical proximity of climate vs. the placebo group.

Research findings suggest that climate organizers should: 

  • Frame climate change in a way that reduces psychological distance by using the present tense and talking about it as issue that is happening "here and now"
  • Avoid overly-negative messages which can de-motivate action by reducing efficacy
  • Focus on the concrete actions that will help solve the problem