Climate protests increase concern about climate change in Germany

PhD researcher Johannes Brehm co-authors paper in Nature Communications showing the effectiveness of climate protests in raising public awareness.

In a recent article published by Nature Communications, Johannes Brehm, Hertie School PhD candidate, and Henri Gruhl from the VU Amsterdam analyse whether different forms of climate protest increase people's concerns about climate change or are possibly counterproductive. Looking at over 24.000 survey responses spanning from 2016 to 2020, the study reveals a notable increase in concerns about climate change following climate protests, with an average increase of 1.2 percentage points observed in the 14 days after a protest. In other words, climate protests not only preach to the converted but on average also reach those previously unconcerned. The researchers did not identify any opposite effects, i.e. there is no statistically significant evidence that concerns of any subpopulation decreased after climate protests. 

By examining the impact of different protest tactics, distinguishing between demonstrative protests, such as those organized by the youth-led movement Fridays for Future, and confrontational acts of civil disobedience by groups like Ende Gelände and Extinction Rebellion, Brehm and Gruhl conclude that both types of protests increase concerns about climate change, with no statistically significant differences between them. 

Furthermore, the paper shows that the effectiveness of protests in increasing concerns is higher when a larger proportion of the population has low levels of concern beforehand. However, even when a significant portion of the population is already concerned about climate change, protests still have a positive impact on increasing overall concern levels. The results suggest that climate protests have been an effective means to remind society of the consequences of climate change time and again. 

Read the full paper here.

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