Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 691–705 | Cite as

Environmental art, prior knowledge about climate change, and carbon offsets

  • Julia Blasch
  • Robert W. TurnerEmail author


Using a contingent choice survey of US citizens, we investigate the influence of environmental art on individual willingness to purchase voluntary carbon offsets. In a split-sample experiment, we compare the stated preferences of survey respondents in two different treatment groups to the preferences of a control group. One treatment group is shown photographs that illustrate the impacts of climate change; the other is shown animated images that illustrate wind speeds and patterns for extreme weather events. While individuals seeing the photographs show a higher willingness to purchase voluntary offset than the control group, respondents seeing the animated images seem less willing to buy offsets. This result remains stable when accounting for preference heterogeneity related to prior knowledge about climate change issues. We hypothesize that the differential impacts of the two kinds of artistic images are due to a combination of factors influencing individual choices: emotional effect, cognitive interest, and preferences for the prevention of specific climate change impacts, as well as, more generally, internalized and social norms for the mitigation of climate change.


Environmental art Climate change Carbon offsetting Knowledge Norms Discrete choice experiment 



This research was undertaken in response to an invitation from Dehlia Hannah to participate in a conference, Mapping the Climatic Imaginary through Art, Science and History, held in November 2013 at the Center for Contemporary History and Policy, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, PA. The authors would like to thank Dehlia and the other participants in that conference for useful comments. Edward Morris of the Canary Project was a conference participant and allowed us to use their photographs. Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg allowed us to use images from their Wind Map Project, which was featured as part of the art exhibition that accompanied the conference. The authors also received particularly helpful comments from Markus Ohndorf, Takao Kato, April Baptiste, Julia Martinez, and two anonymous reviewers. Any remaining errors are, of course, the responsibility of the authors.


  1. Ajzen I (1985) From intentions to actions: a theory of planned behaviour. In: Kuhl J, Beckman J (eds) Action-control: from cognition to behavior. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 11–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreoni J (1988) Privately provided public goods in a large economy: the limits of altruism. J Public Econ 35:57–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andreoni J (1989) Giving with impure altruism: applications to charity and Ricardian equivalence. J Polit Econ 97:1447–1458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreoni J (1990) Impure altruism and donations to public goods: a theory of warm-glow giving. Econ J 100:464–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belfiore E, Bennett O (2007) Rethinking the social impacts of the arts. Int J Cult Pol 13(2):135–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bénabou R, Tirole J (2006) Incentives and prosocial behavior. Am Econ Rev 96:1652–1678Google Scholar
  7. Bergstrom T, Blume L, Varian H (1986) On the private provision of public goods. J Public Econ 29:25–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blasch J, Farsi M (2014) Context effects and heterogeneity in voluntary carbon offsetting—a choice experiment in Switzerland. J Environ Econ Policy 3(1):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boxall PC, Adamowicz WL (2002) Understanding heterogeneity preferences in random utility models: a latent class approach. Environ Resour Econ 23:421–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brekke K, Kverndokk S, Nyborg K (2003) An economic model of moral motivation. J Public Econ 87(9–10):1967–1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlsson F, Frykblom P, Lagerkvist CJ (2005) Using cheap-talk as a test of validity in choice experiments. Econ Lett 89:147–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Champ PA, Bishop RC, Brown TC, McCollum DW (1997) Using donation mechanisms to value nonuse benefits from public goods. J Environ Econ Manag 33(2):151–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummings RG, Taylor LO (1999) Unbiased value estimates for environmental goods: a cheap talk design for the contingent valuation method. Am Econ Rev 89:649–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Curtis DJ (2009) Creating inspiration: the role of the arts in creating empathy for ecological restoration. Ecol Restor Manag 10:174–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Curtis DJ (2011) Towards a culture of landcare: the arts in community capacity building for natural resources management. J Environ Assess Pol Manag 13:673–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Curtis DJ, Reeve I, Reid N (2007) Creating inspiration: using the visual and performing arts to promote environmental sustainability. Report for Land & Water Australia, RIRDC Project No UNE-85A. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, BartonGoogle Scholar
  17. Curtis DJ, Reid N, Ballard G (2012) Communicating ecology through art: what scientists think. Ecol Soc 17(2):3Google Scholar
  18. Dawes RM, Thaler RH (1988) Anomalies—cooperation. J Econ Perspect 2:187–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fischbacher U, Gächter S, Fehr E (2001) Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Econ Lett 71(3):397–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frey BS, Stutzer A (2008) Environmental morale and motivation. In: Lewis A (ed) The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 406–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gächter S (2007) Conditional cooperation: behavioral regularities from the lab and the field and their policy implications. In: Frey BS, Stutzer A (eds) Psychology and economics: a promising new cross-disciplinary field. CESifo Seminar Series, Cambridge, pp 19–50Google Scholar
  22. Goldberg V (1991) A terrible beauty. ARTnews (Summer): 106–113Google Scholar
  23. Hall S (1980) Encoding/decoding. In: Hall S, Hobson D, Lowe A, Willis P (eds) Culture, Media, Language. Hutchinson, London, pp 128–138Google Scholar
  24. Hensher DA, Greene WH (2003) A latent class model for discrete choice analysis: contrasts with mixed logit. Transp Res B 37:681–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hensher DA, Rose JM, Greene WH (2005) Applied choice analysis. a primer. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hertwich E, Peters G (2009) Carbon footprint of nations: a global, trade-linked analysis. Environ Sci Technol 43(16):6414–6420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Holländer H (1990) A social exchange approach to voluntary cooperation. Am Econ Rev 80(5):1157–1167Google Scholar
  28. IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Jackson T (2005) Motivating sustainable consumption: a review of evidence on consumer behaviour and behavioural change. Report to the Sustainable Development Research Network. University of Surrey, Guildford, UKGoogle Scholar
  31. Keser C, van Winden F (2000) Conditional cooperation and voluntary contributions to public goods. Scand J Econ 102(1):23–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lancaster KJ (1966) A new approach to consumer theory. J Polit Econ 71(2):132–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leiserowitz A (2004) Before and after The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. Study of Climate Change Risk Perception. Environment 46:22–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leiserowitz A (2006) Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery, and values. Climate Change 77:45–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Louviere JJ, Hensher DA, Swait JD (2000) Stated choice methods: Analysis and Application. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  36. Lowe T et al (2006) Does tomorrow ever come? Disaster narrative and public perceptions of climate change. Public Underst Sci 15:435–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lundhede T, Olsen S, Jacobsen J, Thorsen B (2009) Handling respondent uncertainty in Choice Experiments: Evaluating recoding approaches against explicit modelling of uncertainty. J Choice Model 2(2):118–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marschak J (1960) Binary choice constraints on random utility indications. In: Arrow K (ed) Stanford Symposium on Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences. Stanford University Press, Stanford, pp 312–329Google Scholar
  39. Martınez-Espineira R, Lyssenko N (2012) Alternative approaches to dealing with respondent uncertainty in contingent valuation: a comparative analysis. J Environ Manag 93:130–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McCutcheon AL (1987) Latent class analysis. Sage Publications, Newbury ParkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McFadden D (1974) Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior. In: Zarembka P (ed) Frontiers in econometrics. Academic Press, New York, pp 105–142Google Scholar
  42. Meier S (2007) A survey of economic theories and field evidence on pro-social behavior. In: Frey B (ed) StutzerA (eds) Economics and psychology: a promising new cross-disciplinary field. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 51–88Google Scholar
  43. Nyborg K, Rege M (2003) Does public policy crowd out private contributions to public goods? Public Choice 115:397–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nyborg K, Howarth RB, Brekke KA (2006) Green consumers and public policy: on socially contingent moral motivation. Resour Energy Econ 28:351–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. O’Neill S, Smith N (2014) Climate change and visual imagery. WIREs Clim Chang 5:73–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’Neill S, Boykoff M, Niemeyer S, Day S (2013) On the use of imagery for climate change engagement. Glob Environ Chang 23:413–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Reeves M (2002) Measuring the economic and social impact of the arts: a review. The Arts Council of England, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Rege M (2004) Social norms and private provision of public goods. J Publ Econ Theory 6:65–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Reid N, Reeve I, Curtis D (2005) Creating inspiration: how visual and performing arts shape environmental behaviours. Report for Land and Water Australia, Canberra Project LWRRDC. UNE44. University of New England, ArmidaleGoogle Scholar
  50. Reusswig F, Schwarzkopf J, Pohlenz P (2004) Double impact: the climate blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow and its impact on the German cinema public. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, PotsdamGoogle Scholar
  51. Samuelson W, Zeckhauser R (1988) Status quo bias in decision making. J Risk Uncertain 1:7–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schläpfer F, Schmitt M (2007) Anchors, endorsements, and preferences: a field experiment. Resour Energy Econ 29:229–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schläpfer F, Schmitt M, Roschewitz A (2008) Competitive politics, simplified heuristics, and preferences for public goods. Ecol Econ 65:574–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schwartz SH (1968) Awareness of consequences and the influence of moral norms on interpersonal behavior. Sociometry 31:355–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schwartz SH (1970) Moral decision making and behavior. In: Macaulay J, Berkowitz L (eds) Altruism and helping behavior. Social Psychological Studies of Some Antecedents and Consequences. Academic Press, New York, pp 127–141Google Scholar
  56. Sheppard SRJ (2005) Landscape visualisation and climate change: the potential for influencing perceptions and behavior. Environ Sci Pol 8:637–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Steg L, van den Berg AE, de Groot JIM (eds) (2013) Environmental psychology: an introduction. BPS Blackwell, West SussexGoogle Scholar
  58. Stern PC et al (1999) A value-belief-norm theory of support for social movements: the case of environmentalism. Hum Ecol Rev 6:81–97Google Scholar
  59. Sugden R (1982) On the economics of philanthropy. Econ J 92:341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tonsor G, Shupp R (2011) Cheap talk scripts and online choice experiments: ‘looking beyond the mean’. Am J Agric Econ 93:1015–1031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tonsor G, Schroeder T, Lusk J (2013) Consumer valuation of alternative meat origin labels. J Agric Econ 64:676–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Train K (2003) Discrete choice methods with simulation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities, Social and Political SciencesETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsColgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

Personalised recommendations