Does Alarming Language Undermine International Cooperation on Climate Change?

2020 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2020-2022

Rebecca Perlman, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and Zuhad Hai, a doctoral student at Stanford University, will explore whether the adoption of more urgent language in the media’s coverage of climate change could lead to greater or lesser support for international cooperation on mitigation efforts. While some existing research implies that more alarming messaging could increase public support for combating the effects of climate change, other studies have found that overly strong language may backfire, producing a “boomerang effect” in which individuals respond with apathy or opposition. Perlman and Hai will field several survey experiments in the United States in order to test how increasingly dire language on climate change impacts individuals’ willingness to support international cooperation and local efforts to reduce global warming. The results of their work could help policymakers more constructively present the problem of climate change to the public in order to bring about effective and collaborative solutions.

Educational Impact

An undergraduate research assistant position will be created to help with critical tasks such as collecting newspaper texts to ensure the external validity of the survey wording, contributing to survey design, and running statistical analysis. The assistant will be taught to employ robust statistical methods and be provided with the necessary tools to conduct independent survey research on climate change for their Princeton senior thesis research.

Participating Departments

Collaborating Institutions


Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs

Additional Researchers

Stanford University