Each individual’s social support for climate change promotes climate policies

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According to a study by UC3M and the Elcano Institute The individual pressure that each person can exert to combat climate change has a significant effect on their environment to promote green behaviour. This is one of the conclusions of a scientific study by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies that analyses the socio-political factors that influence the acceptance of climate policies in Spain.

Researchers have also found that even minimal peer pressure has a positive and significant impact on the inclination of individuals towards climate change mitigation practices, regardless of whether regressive or progressive policies are implemented. "If we convince people not only to behave cooperatively in the fight against climate change, but also to talk about it and tell their friends and acquaintances about it, we can create an environment where everyone will feel more and more pressure to support environmental conservation in the fight against climate change and, in this way, the policies will become much more effective", explains one of the study’s authors, Anxo Sánchez, a professor in UC3M’s Mathematics Department.

This work, published in the scientific journal Ecological Economics, shows that political leadership also plays a crucial role in building public support for climate policies. "Politicians must promote the fight against climate change, because otherwise citizens will lose interest in the subject and also stop fighting", adds Anxo Sánchez.

Regional differences

Using a simplified model of the Spanish socio-political system, researchers have also found significant regional differences in this context. "There are citizens who may live in urban areas, such as Madrid, and others who may live in more agricultural areas... and what we have found with our model is that support for environmental policies is stronger in some regions than in others", explains another of the study’s authors, Alberto Antonioni, a researcher at UC3M’s Interdisciplinary Group of Complex Systems (GISC, in its Spanish acronym).

The study’s findings have implications for public policy design. Regional variability in policy acceptance, for example, indicates that communication strategies and policy interventions should be tailored to each region’s specific characteristics and needs, according to the researchers. In addition, the study results suggest that encouraging citizen participation is crucial to increase the acceptance of climate change mitigation policies.

In order to carry out this research, the authors developed a computational model known as agent-based simulation, which basically consists of programming agents that make decisions based on what they observe around them. The model was calibrated with data from a survey on attitudes and support for climate policies in Spain carried out by the Elcano Royal Institute.

This work is part of the effort that UC3M dedicates to the fight against climate change. In fact, the University has launched the Strategic Climate Initiative, which aims to bring together all’of the university’s research groups that have something to say about climate issues in order to promote knowledge transfer in this area and increase the social impact, among other actions.