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Environmental attitudes and behavior

Over the last century, environmental problems such as global warming, biodiversity loss, and deforestation have emerged as some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.


Environmental problems now endanger the safety and well-being of virtually every human (and non-human) being on the planet. In the face of this looming threat, many look to the natural sciences and technology, and hope they will solve the world's environmental problems. However, all the social sciences agree that environmental challenges will not be solved by technical solutions alone. The fate of the global environment ultimately will depend on ordinary people acting pro-environmentally, and in particular putting pressure on governments to implement pro-environmental policies. The introduction of these policies will in many cases require overcoming resistance from interest groups with a stake in the status quo.

Around the world, people are concerned about environmental degradation. But the link between environmental attitudes and behaviours is surprisingly weak. While people believe environmental problems are real, and serious, they do not always engage in pro-environmental behaviour or support constructive policy responses. Furthermore, the link between environmental attitudes and actual behaviour display considerable cross-national differences. Yet these differences remain little understood.

Our primary research aim is to better understand environmental concerns, behaviours, and policy preferences. We ask research questions such as the following:

  • What leads some people to act on their environmental concerns while others do not?
  • Why are environmentally concerned citizens of some countries more engaged in pro-environmental behaviours than citizens of other countries?
  • Over time, have growing concerns about environmental problems been accompanied by more widespread pro-environmental behaviours?
  • Why are so many people not just sceptical but even hostile to environmental policies that experts recommend, such as green taxes?