Publications

2022
Viktoria Cologna and Naomi Oreskes. 2022. “Don’t gloss over social science! a response to: Glavovic et al. (2021) ‘the tragedy of climate change science’.” Climate and Development, Pp. 1–3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Glavovic et al. ([2021]. The tragedy of climate change science. Climate and Development, 1–5.) recently argued that the science-society contract is broken and that – given the urgency of climate change –scientists should agree to a moratorium on climate change research. We are grateful to the authors for their courage to spark this very important discussion, even if we disagree with their proposed solution. They consider three solutions: continuing with science as usual, increasing social science research, and declaring a moratorium on climate change research and future IPCC reports; they argue that only the latter presents a real prospect for restoring the science-society contract. We certainly agree that the world has largely failed to act on the scientific knowledge on climate change. However, we disagree that the science-society contract is broken and that a moratorium on climate change research is a tenable or meaningful solution. Instead, we suggest that natural scientists have done their job effectively, but that powerful political and cultural forces are standing in the way of effective climate change mitigation and more social science and humanities research is needed to expose and address these power structures.
Anne Berthold, Viktoria Cologna, and Michael Siegrist. 2022. “The influence of scarcity perception on people's pro-environmental behavior and their readiness to accept new sustainable technologies.” Ecological Economics, 196, Pp. 107399. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Experts worldwide point to the challenges our world is facing (e.g., land degradation, resource scarcity, global warming) as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many studies have analyzed how to cope with these challenges. Aside from promoting pro-environmental behaviors, it was proposed that technological innovations might provide the potential to cope with and compensate for natural resource scarcity. We conducted an online survey (N = 404) investigating how people's scarcity perception is related to their willingness to adopt pro-environmental behaviors and their openness to new sustainable technologies. Regression analyses demonstrate that the anticipated future unavailability of resources is more crucial for predicting pro-environmental behavior than the perceived current resource availability. The expected reduced future availability of natural resources goes along with increased openness to sustainable energy (renergy = −0.32) and food technologies (rfood = −0.22). Moreover, a t-test provides evidence for the causal influence of scarcity perception by showing that pro-environmental behavior was higher following our scarcity salience manipulation (Cohen's d = 0.27). Further bootstrapping analyses showed that the salience affected individuals' technology openness via pro-environmental behavior. Also, pro-environmental behavior and openness to sustainable food and energy technologies were amplified when people believed that fewer resources will be available due to an increased concern about scarcity.
Viktoria Cologna, Anne Berthold, and Michael Siegrist. 2022. “Knowledge, perceived potential and trust as determinants of low- and high-impact pro-environmental behaviours.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 79, Pp. 101741. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Changes in household consumption patterns to low-carbon alternatives are needed to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions. Accurate perceptions about the mitigation potential of different behaviours can help consumers to reduce their emissions. With a sample of N = 547 Swiss participants, we analysed to what extent participants correctly judged the mitigation potential of different behaviours. We found that the mitigation potential of certain behaviours, such as switching to a sustainable diet, was underestimated, while the mitigation potential of other behaviours, such as installing efficient light bulbs, was overestimated. Participants correctly judged reducing car use and avoiding a transatlantic flight to have a strong mitigation potential. By differentiating between low- and high-impact behaviours, we found that higher levels of objective knowledge positively predicted intentions to engage in high-impact mitigation behaviours and negatively predicted intentions to engage in low-impact mitigation behaviours, while higher perceived potential, higher levels of trust in climate scientists and less perceived effort predicted the willingness to engage in both low- and high-impact mitigation behaviours. We conclude with recommendations on how the uptake of high-impact behaviours can be fostered.
Marié J. Du Toit, Olivia Rendón, Viktoria Cologna, Sarel S. Cilliers, and Martin Dallimer. 2022. “Why Home Gardens Fail in Enhancing Food Security and Dietary Diversity.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10, Pp. 804523. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Visions of sustainable cities mostly conjure up well tended home and community gardens, where owners and residents plant fruits and vegetables that supply some of their livelihood needs. Indeed, home gardens can contribute to household food security but often fail to do so. Moreover, gardens can provide several additional ecosystem services and impact entire communities. This paper seeks to answer why these gardens often do not provide adequate services to make a substantial contribution to food security and identifies possible solutions. We undertook a case study in South Africa in a low-income former township area. The area is characterized by poverty, high levels of unemployment and food insecurity. We interviewed 140 respondents with home gardens to determine what role their own garden plays in household food security. Only 10% of households were found to be completely food secure. Of the rest, 39% experienced hunger that affected everyone in the household and 51% were at risk of hunger. Despite the fact that 72% of the respondents planted vegetables or fruits, the gardens did not contribute substantially to food security. The respondents mostly bought their food, with subsequent food shortages when they did not have enough money. The dietary diversity and consumption of vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables were very low. The most important constraints inhibiting urban agriculture in the study area were cultural practices, such as the presence of large, bare, open spaces, or “lebala,” the focus of home gardeners on ornamental species and lawns; and a reliance on purchasing of foods.
2021
Kristian S. Nielsen, Viktoria Cologna, Florian Lange, Cameron Brick, and Paul C. Stern. 2021. “The case for impact-focused environmental psychology.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, Pp. 101559. Publisher's Version
Viktoria Cologna, Reto Knutti, Naomi Oreskes, and Michael Siegrist. 2021. “Majority of German citizens, US citizens and climate scientists support policy advocacy by climate researchers and expect greater political engagement.” Environmental Research Letters, 16, 2, Pp. 024011. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Scientists’ role in outreach and advocacy has been debated extensively, but empirical evidence on its perceived legitimacy is scarce. We contacted scientists researching climate change to investigate scientists’ engagement levels, as well as expectations regarding political and public engagement. We then compared how scientists (N = 1107) and German and US citizens (N = 884) view scientists’ engagement and how scientists’ advocacy affects their credibility. We find that perceptions differ across countries, with scientists perceiving more strongly than the public that scientists should politically and publicly engage. However, the public agrees that scientists should engage, and that they should increase these efforts. The majority of citizens agrees that scientists should advocate for climate-related policies and work closely with policymakers but refrain from endorsing climate protests. Further, openly supporting climate policies does not adversely affect scientists’ perceived trustworthiness or honesty, while it negatively affects perceptions of scientists’ objectivity. Our study provides empirical evidence that can help climate change researchers to better understand the public’s demand for, and perceived legitimacy of, different engagement activities.
Florian Lange, Kristian S. Nielsen, Viktoria Cologna, Cameron Brick, and Paul C. Stern. 2021. “Making theory useful for understanding high-impact behavior. A response to van Valkengoed et al. (2021).” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 75, Pp. 101611. Publisher's Version
Viktoria Cologna. 2021. “The Role of Trust, Confidence and Expert Credibility for Climate Change Mitigation”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Current consumption patterns are a strong accelerator of climate change. Therefore, switching to low-carbon lifestyles would be an effective way for individuals to mitigate climate change. However, grasping the manifold risks of climate change and evaluating related behavioural decisions can be a cognitively demanding task, especially when knowledge is limited or information is not readily available. When faced with such uncertainty, individuals often rely on experts in their decision-making process. In fact, trusting experts, such as climate scientists, can help us to reduce the cognitive complexity involved in behavioural decisions and guide decision-making. Against this backdrop, the aims of this dissertation are to (1) quantify the relationship between the public’s trust in scientists and the uptake of pro-environmental behaviours, (2) examine how climate scientists’ political engagement, such as advocacy, affects their credibility and (3) investigate how confidence in technology affects willingness to engage in pro-environmental behaviours.
Viktoria Cologna, Gea Hoogendoorn, and Cameron Brick. 2021. “To strike or not to strike? an investigation of the determinants of strike participation at the Fridays for Future climate strikes in Switzerland.” PLOS ONE, 16, 10, Pp. e0257296. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Fridays for Future strikes involve students striking for increased action on climate change, and this movement has spread to 185 countries and received widespread media attention. This exploratory study investigates motives for participating or not in the climate strikes and future participation among students in Switzerland. In a sample of N = 638 university students, we found that trust in climate scientists, low trust in governments, response efficacy, protest enjoyment and the perceived success of the strikes predicted participation. Contrary to statements in the public media but consistent with the literature, students who participated in the climate strikes reported consuming less meat, flying less and taking more steps to compensate the CO2 emissions from flights compared to students who did not participate. We discuss how the insights from this study help reveal the determinants of youth collective action on climate change.
2020
Viktoria Cologna and Michael Siegrist. 2020. “The role of trust for climate change mitigation and adaptation behaviour: A meta-analysis.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 69, Pp. 101428. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Successful climate change mitigation and adaptation depend on the public's trust in experts. Gaining a deeper understanding of how trust in certain actors influences individuals' mitigation and adaptation behaviours is, therefore, key. We present results of a meta-analysis that examines the role of trust in institutions, scientists, industry, environmental groups and people in general, in relation to different climate-friendly behaviours. We further categorise behaviours into ‘public’ and ‘private’ behaviours and conduct meta-regressions to see whether these categories moderate overall effect sizes. Analysing 141 correlations from 51 studies (46 articles), we find that trust in scientists and trust in environmental groups strongly correlate with climate-friendly behaviours. Meta-regressions further show that trust in institutions is moderately correlated with public behaviours, but only weakly with private behaviours, while associations with trust in industry and general trust measures are weak. We discuss the implications of these findings for climate scientists and how experts can potentially increase trust levels to foster engagement in climate-friendly behaviours.
2018
Viktoria Cologna, Rosalind H. Bark, and Jouni Paavola. 2018. “The Role of Risk Perceptions in Climate Change Communication: A Media Analysis on the UK Winter Floods 2015/2016.” In Handbook of Climate Change Communication: Vol. 2: Practice of Climate Change Communication, edited by Walter Leal Filho, Evangelos Manolas, Anabela Marisa Azul, Ulisses M. Azeiteiro, and Henry McGhie, Pp. 277–288. Cham: Springer International Publishing. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In the winter 2015/2016 a series of storms resulted in widespread flooding in northern England, damaging hundreds of properties, disrupting transport and exposing public contempt of flood risk management. The flooding was widely covered in the media. This chapter develops a methodological framework to conceptualise factors influencing risk perception related to flood events and discusses the media’s role as communicator of climate change and related risks. We demonstrate how understanding the factors that affect risk perception, including how engineered flood defences might distort risk perception and therefore risk preparedness, can be utilised by the authorities to deploy more effective risk management policy and increase individual and community preparedness. Given that increased flood risk due to climate change is a reality, and that there is evidence that this increased risk is not yet understood by the public, nor addressed by the media, we suggest that a change is needed. Not only is there a need for more dialogue between those at risk and the flood risk management authorities and between experts and the public and the media and the public, but also a need for improved risk communication delivered with greater understanding of how at-risk communities perceive risk.
2017
Viktoria Cologna, Rosalind H. Bark, and Jouni Paavola. 2017. “Flood risk perceptions and the UK media: Moving beyond “once in a lifetime” to “Be Prepared” reporting.” Climate Risk Management, 17, Pp. 1–10. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In the winter 2015/2016 a series of storms resulted in widespread flooding in northern England, damaging hundreds of properties, disrupting transport and causing public disdain. The flooding was widely covered in the media. This article develops a methodological framework to conceptualise factors influencing risk perception related to flood events, discusses the media’s role as amplifier or attenuator of risks, and demonstrates how understanding risk perception can influence the deployment of effective policies to modify and reinforce more accurate risk perception to increase individual and community resilience and create a two-way dialogue between those risk and authorities. Given that climate change induced increased flood risk is a reality and the evidence that this is not yet understood by the public, nor addressed by the media, we suggest an urgent shift from the status quo media coverage based on blame to one of “Be Prepared”. Furthermore, we suggest risk communication be based on better understanding of how at-risk communities perceive risk.