Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Trisha Shrum

Abstract

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world only has until 2030 to prevent global temperatures from rising an additional .5 degrees Celsius from greenhouse gas emissions to thwart the catastrophic damage that could follow such warming. To reduce the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and alleviate human pressure on the natural environment, collective action must occur across the globe by consumers and producers. However, not everyone feels concerned about climate change, identifies as an environmentalist, or believes they can make an impact and that it is their responsibility to do so. Environmental attitudes, beliefs, and concerns about climate change influence the actions people do and do not perform daily. Those who recognize their contribution to climate change may implement pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs) in their lives that reduce their negative impact on the planet through environmentally sustainable actions and activism. This thesis aims to realize which factors and characteristics impact the performance of PEBs most. Both studies use data from an online two-part survey of 452 Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers about their environmental identity and attitudes, climate change concerns, past-week PEBs, future intended behaviors, and a task-based experiment that incorporates intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.

The first study connects self-signaling and self-determination theories to the performance of pro-environmental behaviors through an online experiment in effort exertion and behavioral change. This article analyzes the treatment impacts of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations on effort exertion for a task, as well as intentions and follow-through to perform pro-environmental behaviors. The following research questions frame the study design and analysis: how do small extrinsic or intrinsic interventions impact short-term changes in the performance of PEBs and intentions to perform PEBs in the future; and how do extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in the form of bonus payments and donations to charities affect differences in effort exerted in a simple word-entry task? To investigate these questions, participants are clustered into groups based on past behaviors and environmental attitudes and concerns; ordinal logistic (Logit) and Ordinary Least Square regressions are also performed on the data.

The second study analyzes and predicts relationships between PEBs, environmental attitudes, beliefs, and climate change concern variables from primarily the first week of the study using a probabilistic structural equation model (PSEM). Cognitive dissonance and self-signaling theories inspire a new theoretical framework that incorporates climate change concerns, environmental attitudes, the performance of PEBs based on barriers to adoption, and warm glow. This study asks two main questions: how do environmental attitudes, identity, and climate change concerns relate to each other and relate to the performance of different daily pro-environmental behaviors; and which of these variables predict present and future behaviors best according to a probabilistic structural equation model (PSEM)? The application of unsupervised learning, clustering, factor and path analyses provide insight into complex relationships through a PSEM.

Language

en

Number of Pages

108 p.

Available for download on Friday, July 30, 2021

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