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Fossil Fuel Divestment and Public Climate Change Policy Preferences: An Experimental Test in Three Countries

posted on 2023-02-21, 13:43 authored by Joshua SchwartzJoshua Schwartz, Paul Lendway, Abolfazl Nuri

Divestment is a prominent strategy championed by activists to induce positive social change. For example, the current fossil fuel divestment movement includes over 1,500 institutions that control $40 trillion in assets. A primary pathway through which divestment is theorized to be effective is by influencing public opinion and thus pressuring policymakers to take action. However, prior research only tests this argument via qualitative case studies. We assess the impact of exposure to information about fossil fuel divestment on public opinion through the use of national survey experiments in three major greenhouse gas emitters: the United States, India, and South Africa. Across a range of different types of treatments, we find surprisingly little evidence that exposure to information about the fossil fuel divestment movement can increase public support for policies that address climate change. Our findings suggest that divestment movements may be less effective at changing policy preferences than previously realized.