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On strategic ignorance of environmental harm and social norms

Thunstrom, Linda; van't Veld, Klaas; Shogren, Jason F. and Nordström, Jonas LU (2014) In Revue d'Economie Politique 124(2). p.195-214
Abstract
Are people strategically ignorant of the negative externalities their activities cause the environment? Herein we examine if people avoid costless information on those externalities and use ignorance as an excuse to reduce pro-environmental behavior. We develop a theoretical framework in which people feel internal pressure ("guilt") from causing harm-to the environment (e.g., emitting carbon dioxide) as well as external pressure to conform to the social norm for pro-environmental behavior (e.g., offsetting carbon emissions). Our model predicts that people may benefit from avoiding information on their harm to the environment, and that they use ignorance as an excuse to engage in less pro-environmental behavior. It also predicts that the... (More)
Are people strategically ignorant of the negative externalities their activities cause the environment? Herein we examine if people avoid costless information on those externalities and use ignorance as an excuse to reduce pro-environmental behavior. We develop a theoretical framework in which people feel internal pressure ("guilt") from causing harm-to the environment (e.g., emitting carbon dioxide) as well as external pressure to conform to the social norm for pro-environmental behavior (e.g., offsetting carbon emissions). Our model predicts that people may benefit from avoiding information on their harm to the environment, and that they use ignorance as an excuse to engage in less pro-environmental behavior. It also predicts that the cost of ignorance increases if people can learn about the social norm from the information. We test the model predictions empirically using an experiment combined with a stated-preference survey involving a hypothetical long-distance flight and an option to buy offsets for the flight's carbon footprint. More than half (53 percent) of the subjects choose to ignore information on the carbon footprint alone before deciding their offset purchase, but ignorance significantly decreases (to 29 percent) when the information additionally reveals the share of air travelers who buy carbon offsets. We find evidence that some people use ignorance as an excuse to reduce pro-environmental behavior-ignorance significantly decreases the probability of buying carbon offsets. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Climate change, experiment, guilt, social pressure, strategic ignorance
in
Revue d'Economie Politique
volume
124
issue
2
pages
195 - 214
publisher
Dalloz
external identifiers
  • wos:000338753400004
  • scopus:84905243165
ISSN
2105-2883
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
5962fad7-664e-4681-9614-59dc2c600e5a (old id 4602498)
alternative location
http://www.cairn.info/revue-d-economie-politique-2014-2.htm
date added to LUP
2014-09-05 08:22:13
date last changed
2017-11-05 03:11:38
@article{5962fad7-664e-4681-9614-59dc2c600e5a,
  abstract     = {Are people strategically ignorant of the negative externalities their activities cause the environment? Herein we examine if people avoid costless information on those externalities and use ignorance as an excuse to reduce pro-environmental behavior. We develop a theoretical framework in which people feel internal pressure ("guilt") from causing harm-to the environment (e.g., emitting carbon dioxide) as well as external pressure to conform to the social norm for pro-environmental behavior (e.g., offsetting carbon emissions). Our model predicts that people may benefit from avoiding information on their harm to the environment, and that they use ignorance as an excuse to engage in less pro-environmental behavior. It also predicts that the cost of ignorance increases if people can learn about the social norm from the information. We test the model predictions empirically using an experiment combined with a stated-preference survey involving a hypothetical long-distance flight and an option to buy offsets for the flight's carbon footprint. More than half (53 percent) of the subjects choose to ignore information on the carbon footprint alone before deciding their offset purchase, but ignorance significantly decreases (to 29 percent) when the information additionally reveals the share of air travelers who buy carbon offsets. We find evidence that some people use ignorance as an excuse to reduce pro-environmental behavior-ignorance significantly decreases the probability of buying carbon offsets.},
  author       = {Thunstrom, Linda and van't Veld, Klaas and Shogren, Jason F. and Nordström, Jonas},
  issn         = {2105-2883},
  keyword      = {Climate change,experiment,guilt,social pressure,strategic ignorance},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {195--214},
  publisher    = {Dalloz},
  series       = {Revue d'Economie Politique},
  title        = {On strategic ignorance of environmental harm and social norms},
  volume       = {124},
  year         = {2014},
}