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date: 22 March 2018

Moral Reasoning, Intuitions, and Perceptions of Climate Change

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Climate change is often perceived by individuals as a scientific, environmental, economic and/or technical issue. Until recently, the moral and ethical dimensions of the issue have appeared to resonate less strongly with many members of the public. Yet for over two decades, climate ethicists and others have argued strenuously that climate change is, perhaps at its core, a moral and ethical issue. What explains this apparent disconnect between normative and subjective perspectives on the moral core of climate change? Research has identified a set of key psychological and cultural mechanisms that influence and at times inhibit individual moral reasoning about climate change and, often, inhibit perceptions of climate change as a moral issue. Moral reasoning and intuitions about climate change in turn influence public engagement with and support for responses to the problem. The research to date suggests several new questions for scholars to examine further, and it offers implications for effective public communication and engagement.