This website summarizes the preliminary findings of two pilot studies of the Climate Action Science project. We constantly update this page and add additional information. In case you would like to learn more about the project, feel free to contact Max Jungmann (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Efficacy of High-Resolution Emission Maps for Policy Communication
One task of policy makers, both on the national and the regional level, is to communicate and advertise policies to tackle climate change. In this experimental study, we aimed to assess whether high-resolution emission data can be a helpful tool in this endeavor.
271 participants from Heidelberg and the Rhein-Neckar municipal region took part in this online study.
In the first phase of the experiment, we presented one of four maps to participants with data related to climate change. In an additional control group, they saw no map at all. The maps differed in data content and spatial resolution:
Emission maps: Showed yearly per capita greenhouse gas emissions produced in private homes. This mostly included emissions caused by heating.
Spending maps: Depicted per capita public spending for climate protection policies. We chose these maps to rule out an effect of general engagement with the issue of climate change/conservation.
High-resolution maps: Showed the data described above on the level of twelve communes in the Rhein-Neckar region. The twelve communes were selected based on whether both emission and spending data were available.
Low-resolution maps: Showed the data for twelve German federal states including Baden-Württemberg, where the Rhein-Neckar region is located. Analogously, the twelve federal states were selected based on data availability at the time.
Maps Differing in Resolution and Data Content
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the five map conditions: Emissions High Resolution, Emissions Low Resolution, Spending High Resolution, Spending Low Resolution, or No Map.
After seeing one of the four maps, participants then reported their opinions towards different policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from 1 = “do not agree at all” to 6 = “totally agree”. In the “No Map” control condition, participants were directed to this section right away.
Schematic Overview of the Experiment
The policy measures differed both in the domains of emissions they aim to influence
(housing, electricity, and traffic)
as well as the level of legislative intervention (national
vs. communal). Choosing different domains helped
us understand whether emission maps related to housing had a specific effect on people’s attitudes regarding
housing alone, or whether there was a spill-over effect to other sources of emissions.
For each combination of the domains and levels of intervention, two measures were collected, therefore participants reported their (dis-)agreement with a total of twelve statements, e.g. “My city/commune should promote the installation of CO2-neutral heating in buildings through incentives and/or sanctions.” (housing communal).
In the domain of housing, participants’ attitudes towards policy measures differed between the Emissions
High Resolution condition and the other four conditions.
In the other groups, regional policy proposals for climate protection were less popular then those on the national level. This was reversed in the Emissions High Resolution group, where regional policies became more popular than those on the national level.
We did not find similar effects in the domains of traffic or electricity, where people’s attitudes toward policies were comparable between the five conditions.
Attitudes Towards Housing-Related Policies by Condition
In this study we found a specific effect of high-resolution emission maps on people’s attitudes towards
regional policy measures. This effect could not be observed in the High Resolution Spending condition.
Therefore, people’s reversal of attitudes cannot be explained by a general engagement with the topic of
climate change on a regional level, but rather by the unique combination of high resolution and emission data.
This is further qualified by the concrete source of emissions. Attitudes among the five groups did not differ in regard to policies concerning electricity or traffic.
Our results indicate that for a change in people’s attitudes to occur, information should be as specifically tailored to intended policies as possible. One way to achieve this goal will be to provide interactive tools which enable users to choose both the resolution of emission maps and specific sources of emissions. These can help to argue effectively in favor of climate protection policies and serve as an accepted basis for policy decisions.