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Coronavirus and climate change – individual spillover in private public good provision

The need for private climate protection measures to achieve the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreements is not in question. But how does this insight change in the light of another global crisis, the corona pandemic? People are scared by infectious diseases because they bring about immediate and personal consequences. They cause a radical and rapid change in their lifestyles. But they also affect the immediate social environment, such as their family and friends. To protect themselves and the social environment, immediate action is taken and the recommended protective measures against the corona virus are implemented. Climate change, however, is more likely to be seen as a long-term and incremental threat. Not only the effects of global climate change still feel very impersonal to many, but also its causes. It is difficult to attribute them to the actions of a single individual. As a result, too many people still do not take immediate action to combat climate change. A further question therefore relates to the association between individual contributions to the public goods of health and climate protection. This paper examines these questions based on panel data from two field experiments in Chile. In particular, first we empirically compare individual climate mitigation activities and altruistic behavior before and during the crisis in order to assess causal changes in climate action due to Covid-19. Next to intertemporal correlations for climate mitigation activities and altruistic behavior, we investigate the stability climate relevant preferences over time. We further consider differences in the causal effects depending on heterogeneous individual characteristics such as individual pro-environmental preferences, emotions, personality. Second, to assess the association between individual contributions to the public goods of health and climate protection and spillover effects in individual private public good provision, defined as a morally conscious behavior affecting the adoption of a different subsequent behavior, we investigate the extent to which a spillover in individual behavior from coronavirus protection measures to climate protection measures exists. In particular, the paper examines whether people who are willing to take protective measures against Covid-19 are also more likely to engage in climate protection activities to ensure the well-being of themselves, their friends and family. Further, we ask whether protective measures and attitudes related to Covid-19 are correlated with directed altruistic behavior.

Lead investigator:

Elke D. Groh


University of Kassel

Primary topic:

Attitudes, media & governance

Region of data collection:

South America

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Type of data being collected:

Online survey

Unit of real-time data collection


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