Morality and Climate Change: Detailing the Communication Challenges Based on Survey Data

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Since the seriousness and urgency of climate change has surfaced during the last decade, researchers, experts, and even the pope have argued that dealing with it is a moral issue. However, emissions keep rising and it seems as if few people in the north are ready and willing to make any substantial lifestyle changes to minimize the potentially catastrophic consequences, mainly to the south. International treaties and agreements are being put into place but without grass-root support and willingness to understand and change behavior, the success of these policies is questionable. Excessive consumption and travelling is often pointed to as high-emitting consumer behaviors and consumers and citizens are asked to change behaviors. Often, there is a discussion of blame and of which groups should take the lead in a change; be it politicians, companies or consumers. Against this background, it is important to understand how consumers reason around climate change and other sustainability issues, especially in terms of morality. As such, there are several different theoretical frameworks that can aid in developing communication addressing consumers and thus increasing the likelihood of a less climate impactful consumption. The purpose of this study is thus to further the understanding of how climate change is viewed as a moral issue by consumers, and based on this, propose how climate change communication by different stakeholders can be improved. A questionnaire survey was developed using several morality theories and concepts that were related to sustainability issues in general and climate change in particular. In total, 1144 respondents returned the questionnaire comprising a response rate of 23%. Results from a range of different analyses show that some moral attitudes are more related to the willingness to act for climate change mitigation than others and also that there are differences among consumer groups. Implications based on the results and suggestions for climate change communication are presented, as well as suggestions for further research.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • Ethics
  • Business Administration


  • consumer attitudes, climate change, communication, moral foundations theory (MFT)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 27
Publication categoryResearch
Event6th World Sustainability Forum - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 2017 Jan 262017 Jan 28
Conference number: 6


Conference6th World Sustainability Forum
Abbreviated titleWSF
CountrySouth Africa
CityCape Town
Internet address