There is a tremendous gap between the proportion of the population expressing concern about climate change and those engaged in climate change activism. We examined barriers to climate change activism among respondents stating climate change was an important issue to them.
Participants in a national online longitudinal study reported on 12 reasons for lack of involvement in climate change actions. Five months later, engagement in six climate change actions was assessed. The primary analyses focused on the 319 respondents who, out of 592 respondents who participated in both surveys, reported that the issue of global warming was extremely or very important to them.
Participants showed a range of engagement in climate change activism behaviors: 29.8% donated money to an organization to reduce climate change, 32.3% signed a petition, 69.0% voted for candidates who support measures to reduce climate change, 11.9% wrote letters, e-mailed, or phoned government officials to urge them to take action, and 9.4% volunteered with organizations working to curb climate change. The median number of barriers was 5. The most frequent reasons for lack of involvement in climate change activism were other people are better at it (57.4%), hadn’t been trained (56.7%), hadn’t been asked (50.8%), not knowing how to get involved (49.8%), activities like letter writing not appealing (49.8%), too busy (38.9%), organizations would ask them for money (39.8%), and not encouraged to become involved (38.2%). Several barriers were associated with engagement in climate change activism five months later. The most consistent association with activism was with talking about climate change in the prior month.
Most respondents cited several barriers that impeded their involvement in climate change activism. Select barriers were associated with reduced engagement in activism. Organizations that address climate change should acknowledge barriers but emphasize that individuals can engage in climate change activism regardless of barriers.