In order to meet the challenges of sustainable development, it is of utmost importance to involve all relevant decision makers in this process. These decision makers are diverse, including governments, corporations and private citizens. Since the latter group is the largest and the majority of decisions relevant to the future of the environment is made by that group, great effort has been put into communicating relevant research results to them. The hope is that well-informed citizens make well-informed choices and thus act in a sustainable way. However, this common but drastic simplification that more information about climate change automatically leads to pro-environmental behaviour is fundamentally flawed. It completely neglects the complex social-psychological processes that occur if people are confronted with threatening information. In reality, the defence mechanisms that are activated in such situations can also work against the goal of sustainable development, as experimental studies showed. Based on these findings, we propose an agent-based model to understand the relation between threatening climate change information, anxiety, climate change scepticism, environmental self-identity and pro-environmental behaviour. We find that the exposure to information about climate change, in general, does not increase the pro-environmental intent unless several conditions regarding the individual’s values and information density are met.
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