Why Do We Want to Delay Actions on Climate Change? Effects of Probability and Timing of Climate Consequences
This research tests people's support for the “wait-and-see” approach in climate change due to the uncertainty in both the timing and probability of future consequences. In a laboratory experiment, carbon-tax consequences were presented to participants in one of two forms: a written description, where the probability, consequences, and timing were explicitly provided; and experience, where the probability, consequences, and timing were sampled through unlabeled buttons. Four problems were presented in each condition such that the probability of consequences was high or low and the timing was early or late. Results indicated that the proportion of wait-and-see choices was greater in experience than description. Furthermore, in both experience and description, the proportion of wait-and-see choices was greater when the probability was low rather than high. The difference in the proportion of wait-and-see choices between the low and high probability was amplified in experience and attenuated in description. Finally, there was no difference in the proportion of wait-and-see choices when the timing of climate consequences was early rather than late in both experience and description. These results are explained by people's risk and time preferences. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.