Building Consensus for Ambitious Climate Action Through the World Climate Simulation
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Sociopolitical values are an important driver of climate change beliefs, attitudes, and policy preferences. People with individualist-hierarchical values favor individual freedom, competition, and clearly defined social hierarchies, while communitarian-egalitarians value interdependence and equality across gender, age, heritage, and ethnicity. In the US, individualist-hierarchs generally perceive less risk from climate change and express lower support for actions to mitigate it than communitarian-egalitarians. Exposure to scientific information does little to change these views. Here, we ask if a widely used experiential simulation, World Climate, can help overcome these barriers. World Climate combines an engaging role-play with an interactive computer model of the climate system. We examine pre- and post-World Climate survey responses from 2,080 participants in the US and use a general linear mixed model approach to analyze interactions among participants' sociopolitical values and gains in climate change knowledge, affect, and intent to take action. As expected, prior to the simulation, participants holding individualist-hierarchical values had lower levels of climate change knowledge, felt less urgency, and expressed lower intent to act than those holding communitarian-egalitarian values. However, individualist-hierarchs made significantly larger gains across all constructs, particularly urgency, than communitarian-egalitarians. Participants' sociopolitical values also shifted: those with individualistic-hierarchical values before the simulation showed a substantial, statistically significant shift toward a communitarian-egalitarian worldview. Simulation-based experiences like World Climate may help reduce polarization and build consensus towards science-based climate action.