Climate Intervention Webapp

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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A major new global psychology study involving researchers at University of Limerick has created an online tool that could increase global climate awareness and action.

The large ‘many-labs’ style global project, which involved researchers in the Department of Psychology (UL), has resulted in the creation of a Behavioural Science Tool for policymakers and advocacy groups which they are calling a ‘Climate Intervention Webapp’.

The web-based tool is a product of an international study, just published in Science Advances, which involved almost 250 researchers and 59,000 participants from 63 countries.

The researchers say the tool can facilitate in increasing climate awareness and climate action globally as it highlights messaging themes that were shown to be effective through experimental research.

Siobhán Griffin and Cillian McHugh, both assistant professors in the Department of Psychology at UL, led the Irish component of the multi-lab research study.

“We are very excited to be involved in this project – and to ensure that people in Ireland’s responses were represented in this important work,” explained Professor Griffin.

“Climate change is going to affect everyone and finding ways to increase support to address climate change is pressing. This work would not have been possible without all the people who volunteered to take part in this research, so we are very grateful to them.”

Madalina Vlasceanu, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the paper’s lead author, explained the project: “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.”

The Climate Intervention Webapp can consider a range of factors, such as nationality, age, gender, income level, and political ideology.

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

Overall, the authors of this paper tested 10 expert-crowdsourced interventions on four climate mitigation outcomes: beliefs, policy support, information sharing intention, and an effortful tree-planting behavioural task.

For example, some people read “doom and gloom” style messages (e.g., “Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity”), others were asked to write a letter to a future generation member outlining what climate actions they are undertaking today to make the planet liveable in 2055.

After being presented with an intervention, participants then completed some measures testing their 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) in order to see how effective the intervention was.

Finally, participants’ desire to share climate-mitigation information on social media was tested – e.g., would they post this phrase on their social media platforms: “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.

While responses/intervention effectiveness differed significantly across countries, as well as across participants’ demographics and beliefs, 86% of people stated they recognise the dangers posed by climate change and more than 70% of people stated that they support systemic/collective action addressing climate change.

“These responses reveal a global consensus regarding the dangers posed by climate change and the importance of enacting climate mitigation at the systemic level,” observed Jay Van Bavel, a professor of psychology at NYU and one of the paper’s authors. “It’s important that people realize that there is an overwhelming global consensus on this issue.”

But it is worth noting that some differences emerged across countries in terms of how effective the interventions were, and in some cases, it even decreased support.

For example:

  • Emphasizing scientific consensus on climate change (i.e., “Ninety-nine percent of expert climate change scientists agree that the Earth is warming, and climate change is happening, mainly because of human activity”) increased support for climate-friendly policies by 9% in Romania but decreased such support by 5% in Canada.
  • Asking participants to write a letter to a socially close child, as a member of the future generation, had the following effects:
    • The intervention increased climate policy support in the following countries: the United States (10%), Brazil (10%), Ghana (8%), Russia (7%), and Nigeria (5%).
    • The intervention decreased policy support slightly in the UAE and Serbia (3%) as well as in India (2%).

In terms of willingness to share information on social media – the largest gains occurred after participants read facts about the negative impacts of climate change—a “gloom and doom” style of messaging. Participants who heard these messages were 12% more likely to share pro-environmental messages on social media.

Interestingly, none of the interventions tested increased support for a tested action – the tree-planting initiative/task (where real trees would be planted as a result of the task).

The results reveal fresh insights into the efficacy of climate communication strategies. While certain activists advocate for a ‘doom-and-gloom’ approach to spur action, others contend that this messaging might not influence behaviour at all, or even worse, could dishearten and discourage the public from taking action.

The latest research provides validation for both strategies, contingent upon the desired outcome. While ‘doom and gloom’ messaging proved successful in generating social media shares, acknowledged by researchers as a low-effort activity, it diminished support for labour-intensive tasks like tree-planting.

Furthermore, this messaging reduced policy support among participants who were sceptical about climate change.

“Our results illuminate the impact of messaging aimed at achieving specific objectives,” explained Madalina Vlasceanu.

“At the same time, these findings make clear that effective outreach depends on peoples’ pre-existing belief in climate change, showing that policymakers and advocates need to tailor their outreach to the characteristics of their audience.”


Source lists environmental studies courses run by colleges in Ireland. The environment is the burning issue of the 21 century and is now a significant growth area for employment. Large and small organisations are now investing sums of money to meet the stringent environmental laws imposed on them and it is clear looks set to expand. Now more than ever is the time to get a qualification in environmental management and environment studies. Search for environmental studies courses in Ireland on here.

Steven Galvin

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