Introduction: The study presented here is concerned with climate change perceptions, focusing specifically on scepticism and attitudes towards adaptation measures. I apply a cognitive theory of stress framework integrating work on identity protective cognitions to propose a refined understanding of climate change scepticism and its origins. The overarching line of thought is that climate change scepticism can be understood as a cognitive defence-mechanism to protect a personal life-style, value set, social status, identity; in summary, anything that is integral to one’s self-definition. In the course of the paper I will consequently discuss the forms of threat that climate change can constitute for individuals, with particular attention to the role of recommended adaptation- and mitigation-measures. Building on relevant work in this field I will then introduce narratives that could potentially reduce sceptical responses and test these in a quasi-experimental setup.

The proposed research paper will be based on a framing study with a 2x2 design sampling the Cardiff University participant pool. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four texts on the impacts of climate change, which are expected to induce various degrees of threat. The texts will be created by manipulating information concerning outcome (gain vs. loss), as well as personal relevance (local vs. global impacts). Further, pre- and post-scores are going to be recorded for scepticism, concern and emotional engagement. The outcome measures will capture intention to perform and support for mitigation- and adaptation-measures. Various socio-demographic, contextual measures and a short value scale will also be used. Analysis of the data will consist in comparing before- and after-scores and outcome measures across/between participants and conditions. In the course of these analyses special attention will be given to potential interaction effects stemming from scepticism/value orientations and framing manipulations. Statistical procedures used will include multiple regression and various ANOVAs.

I anticipate that the combination of personally relevant and gain information will be the most effective frame across outcome measures and value orientations. This is based on the assumption that this kind of frame is more likely to prompt problem oriented coping (e.g. intention to perform actions) as opposed to maladaptive coping and/or denial. Relevant loss frames on the other hand are expected to create more sceptic responses across participants and to be the least effective for all outcome measures. The individual preference patterns however will depend on value orientations and scepticism. Conservatives/Sceptics, compared to their ideological counterparts, should react more favourably when presented with personally relevant non-threatening information and less favourably for non-personally relevant threatening information. In line with results from a previous study I expect scepticism to be a positive predictor of adaptation intentions with an overall preference for adaptation measures for conservatives/sceptics as opposed to liberals/non-sceptics.

The discussion of this study will offer a refined perspective on the origins of climate change scepticism and elaborate on strategies to more effectively involve sceptic publics in discussions around climate change solutions.