Climatic Change

, Volume 137, Issue 1–2, pp 43–55 | Cite as

Combining threat and efficacy messaging to increase public engagement with climate change in Beijing, China

  • Wen Xue
  • Donald W. HineEmail author
  • Anthony D. G. Marks
  • Wendy J. Phillips
  • Patrick Nunn
  • Shouying Zhao


In this study we employed the Extended Parallel Process Model of risk communication to investigate the effectiveness of combining threat and efficacy messages to increase public engagement with climate change. A total of 515 Mandarin-speaking residents of Beijing, China were randomly assigned to view one of two climate change messages sourced from an online environmental website. The first message (high threat – low efficacy) described the negative impacts of climate change for China, but provided no information about what actions could be taken by citizens to reduce the threat. The second message (high threat – high efficacy) provided the same threat information, but also provided practical information on how to reduce the threat. Mediation analyses revealed that the high threat – high efficacy message elicited higher levels of perceived efficacy in viewers, which in turn predicted higher levels of danger control processing (intention to seek our more information and take action) and lower levels of fear control processing (message rejection and denial of threat). Moderation analyses revealed that the high efficacy messages were less effective for viewers with moderate to strong anthropocentric worldviews and very high ecocentric worldviews.


Public Engagement High Threat Combat Climate Change Ecological Paradigm Climate Change Action 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aiken LS, West SG (1991) Multiple regression: testing and interpreting interaction. Sage, Newbury ParkGoogle Scholar
  2. Barr S (2007) Factors influencing environmental attitudes and behaviors a UK case study of household waste management. Environ Behav 39(4):435–473. doi: 10.1177/0013916505283421 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blanco G, Gerlagh R, Suh S, Barrett J, de Coninck HC, Diaz Morejon CF, Zhou P (2014) Drivers, trends and mitigation. In: Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Farahani E, Kadner S, Seyboth K, Adler A, Baum I, Brunner S, Eickemeier P, Kriemann B, Savolainen J, Schlömer S, von Stechow C, Zwickel T, Minx JC (eds) Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 351–411Google Scholar
  4. Blanford GJ, Rose SK, Tavoni M (2012) Baseline projections of energy and emissions in Asia. Energy Econ 34:S284–S292. doi: 10.1016/j.eneco.2012.08.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Casey PJ, Scott K (2006) Environemtental concern and behaviour in an Australian sample within an ecocentric- anthropocentric framework. Aust J Psychol 58(2):57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Castro P (2006) Applying social psychology to the study of environmental concern and environmental worldviews: contributions from the social representations approach. J Community Appl Soc Psychol 16(4):247–266. doi: 10.1002/casp.864 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Copsey T, Hoijtink L, Shi X, & Whitehead S (2013) How the people of China live with climate change and what communication can do. In S. Whitehead & D. Wilson (Eds.), (pp. 1–61). Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA, United Kingdom: UK Department for International Development (DFID)Google Scholar
  8. Dunlap RE, Van Liere KD (1978) The new ecological paradigm. J Environ Educ 9(4):10–19. doi: 10.1080/00958964.1978.10801875 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunlap RE, Van Liere KD, Mertig AG, Jones RE (2000) Measuring endorsement of the new ecological paradigm: a revised NEP scale. J Soc Issues 56(3):425–442. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00176 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harkness JA, Schoua-glusberg A (1998) Questionnaires in translation. ZUMA Nachrichten Spezial 3:87–126Google Scholar
  11. Hawcroft LJ, Milfont TL (2010) The use (and abuse) of the new environmental paradigm scale over the past 30 years: a meta-analysis. J Environ Psychol 30:143–158. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2009.10.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hayes AF (2013) Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. The Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Hijioka, Y., Lin, E., Pereira, J. J., Corlett, R. T., Cui, X., Insarov, G. E.,…Surjan, A. (2014). Asia. In V. R. Barros, C. B. Field, D. J. Dokken, M. D. Mastrandrea, K. J. Mach, T. E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K. L. Ebi, Y. O. Estrada, R. C. Genova, B. Girma, E. S. Kissel, A. N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P. R. Mastrandrea & L. L. White (Eds.), Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: regional aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (pp. 1327–1370). Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  14. Hine DW, Gifford R (1991) Fear appeals, individual differences and environmental concern. J Environ Educ 23:36–41. doi: 10.1080/00958964.1991.9943068 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hine DW, Phillips WJ, Reser JP, Cooksey RW, Marks ADG, Nunn PD, Ellul M (2013) Enhancing climate change communication: strategies for profiling and targeting Australian interpretive communities. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, QLD, p 95Google Scholar
  16. Hine DW, Phillips WJ, Cooksey RW, Reser JP, Nunn PD, Marks ADG, Loi N, Watt SE (2016) Preaching to different choirs: how to motivate audiences dismissive, uncommitted, and alarmed audiences to adapt to climate change? Glob Environ Chang 36:1–11. doi: 10.1016/jgloenvcha.2015.11.002
  17. Janis IL, Feshbach S (1953) Effects of fear-arousing communications. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 48:78–92. doi: 10.1037/h0060732 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kellstedt PM, Zahran S, Vedlitz A (2008) Personal efficacy, the information environment, and attitudes toward global warming and climate change in the United States. Risk Anal 28(1):113–126. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01010.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kim S, Jeong SH, Hwang Y (2013) Predictors of pro-environmental behaviors of american and korean students: the application of the theory of reasoned action and protection motivation theory. Sci Commun 35(2):168–188. doi: 10.1177/1075547012441692 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kline RB (2005) Principles and practice of structural equation modeling, 2nd edn. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Leventhal H (1970) Findings and theory in the study of fear communicaitons. In: Berkowitz L (ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 5. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Maloney EK, Lapinski MK, Witte K (2011) Fear appeals and persuasion: a review and update of the extended parallel process model. Soc Personal Psychol Compass 5(4):206–219. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00341.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McMahan S, Witte K, Meyer J (1998) The perception of risk messages regarding electromagnetic fields: extending the extended parallel process model to an unknown risk. Health Commun 10(3):247–259. doi: 10.1207/s15327027hc1003_4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Olli E, Grendstad G, Wollebaek D (2001) Correlates of environmental behaviors bringing back social context. Environ Behav 33(2):181–208. doi: 10.1177/0013916501332002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pachauri RK, Allen MR, VR, Broome J, Cramer W, Christ R, & Van Vuuren D (2014) Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate changeGoogle Scholar
  26. Phillips WJ, Hine DW, & Marks ADG (2015) Exploring the effects of cultural cognition on responses to climate change messagesGoogle Scholar
  27. Poumadère M, Mays C, Pfeifle G, Vafeidis AT (2008) Worst case scenario as stakeholder decision support: a 5- to 6-m sea level rise in the rhone delta. Fr Clim Chang 91(1–2):123–143. doi: 10.1007/s10584-008-9446-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rogers RW (1983) Cognitver and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: a revised theory of protection motivation. In: Cacciopo J, Petty R (eds) Social psychophysiology. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Smalec JL, Klingle RS (2000) Bulimia interventions via interpersonal influence: the role of threat and efficacy in persuading bulimics to seek help. J Behav Med 23(1):37–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vining J, Ebreo A (1992) Predicting recycling behavior from global and specific environmental attitudes and changes in recycling opportunities. J Appl Soc Psychol 22(20):1580–1607. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1992.tb01758.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wang B, & LiY (2012) Public climate change awareness and climate change communication in China.URL:
  32. Whitmarsh L (2011) Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: dimensions, determinants and change over time. Glob Environ Chang 21(2):690–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Witte K (1992) Putting the fear back into fear appeals: the extended parallel process model. Commun Monogr 59:329–349. doi: 10.1080/03637759209376276 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Witte K (1994) Fear control and danger control: a test of the extended parallel process model (EPPM). Commun Monogr 61(2):113–134. doi: 10.1080/03637759409376328 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Witte K, Allen M (2000) A meta-analysis of fear appeals: implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Educ Behav 27(5):591–615. doi: 10.1177/109019810002700506 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Witte K, Meyer A, Martell A (2001) Effective health risk messages. Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  37. Xue W, Zhao S (2015) The environmental worldviews and climate change mitigation behaviors: testing the new ecological scale in the smallest space analysis for Chinese samples. Int J Environ Sci Dev 6(7):547–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Xue W, Hine DW, Loi NM, Thorsteinsson EB, Phillips WJ (2014) Cultural worldviews and environmental risk perceptions: a meta-analysis. J Environ Psychol 40:249–258. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.07.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Xue W, Marks ADG, Phillips WJ, Hine DW, Zhao S (2016) The new ecological paradigm and responses to global warming in China. J Risk Res (in press)Google Scholar
  40. Yu X (2011) Beijing statistical yearbook. China Statistics Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  41. Zheng B, Wang B (2013) Zhongguo qihou chuanbo yanjiu de fazhan mailuo jiyu yu tiaozhan. Dong Yue Tribune(ch) 34(10):5–14Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wen Xue
    • 1
  • Donald W. Hine
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony D. G. Marks
    • 1
  • Wendy J. Phillips
    • 1
  • Patrick Nunn
    • 2
  • Shouying Zhao
    • 3
  1. 1.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.University of Sunshine CoastSunshine CoastAustralia
  3. 3.School of EducationGuizhou Normal UniversityGuiyangChina

Personalised recommendations