PUBLICATIONS

with Elisabeth Gsottbauer, Anya Doherty & Andreas Kontoleon

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 114 (2022): 102693

Abstract

We estimate the causal effect of carbon footprint labels on individual food choices and quantify potential carbon emission reductions, using data from a large-scale field experiment at five university cafeterias with over 80,000 individual meal choices. Results show that carbon footprint labels led to a decrease in the probability of selecting a high-carbon footprint meal by approximately 2.7 percentage points with consumers substituting to mid-carbon impact meals. We find no change in the market share of low-carbon meals, on average. The reduction in high-carbon footprint meals is driven by decreases in sales of meat meals while sales of mid-ranged vegan, vegetarian and fish meals all increased. We estimate that the introduction of carbon footprint labels was associated with a 4.3% reduction in average carbon emissions per meal. We contrast our findings with those from nudge-style interventions and discuss the cost-effectiveness of carbon footprint labels. Our results suggest that carbon footprint labels present a viable and low-cost policy tool to address information failure and harness climatarian preferences to encourage more sustainable food choices.

with Andreas Pondorfer and Katrin Rehdanz

Ecological Economics, 159 (2019): 344-353

Abstract

The literature investigating the relationship between natural hazards and individuals' subjective well-being has so far focused on industrialized countries. Using the life-satisfaction approach, this paper is the first to study the link between natural hazards, in particular heavy storms and droughts, and subjective well-being for a small-scale island society in the Pacific Ocean. Results indicate that the experience of drought markedly diminished life satisfaction, whereas the experience of storms had only somewhat negative impact. The primary driver of the negative well-being impact appeared to be damage experience for both storms and droughts. Since regular cash-income did not exist for the majority of the population, the marginal effect could not be calculated in monetary terms. To account for differences in wealth across respondents, we developed a wealth index in the form of a simple ‘asset score’. Comparing the marginal effect of the hazard variables with our measure of wealth, the positive marginal effect of doubling the number of household assets was significantly smaller than the negative impact of drought experience on subjective well-being.

WORKING PAPERS

Does Heat Wave and Flood Experience raise Concern about Climate Change? Causal Evidence from UK Weather Events

with Andreas Kontoleon

Abstract

Understanding howpersonal experience of extremeweather events raises awareness and concern about climate change has important policy implications. It has repeatedly been argued that proximising climate change through extreme weather events holds a promising strategy to increase engagement with the issue and encourage climate change action. In this paper, we exploit geo-referenced panel data on climate change attitudes as well as natural variation in flood and heatwave exposure to estimate the causal effect of extreme weather events on climate change attitudes and environmental behaviours using a differences-in-difference matching approach. We find that personal experience with both flooding and heatwaves significantly increases risk perception towards climate change impacts. Moreover, we show that experiencing multiple heatwaves increases climate change concern and pro-environmental behaviour but find no such frequency effect for flood exposure.

The Causal Effect of Air Pollution on Antisocial Behaviour

with Elisabeth Gsottbauer, Jing You & Andreas Kontoleon

[pre-registration]

Abstract

We conducted a pre-registered randomized lab-in-the-field online experiment in Beijing, China, to explore the relationship between acute air pollution and anti-social behaviour. Our novel experimental design exploits naturally occurring discontinuities in pollution episodes to mimic an experimental setting in which pollution exposure is exogenously manipulated, thus allowing us to identify a causal relationship. Participants were randomly assigned to be surveyed on either high pollution or low pollution days, thereby exogenously varying the degree of pollution exposure. In addition, a subset of individuals surveyed on the high-pollution days received an additional 'pollution alert' to explore whether providing air pollution warnings influences (protective) behaviour. We used a set of well-established incentivised economic games to obtain clean measures of anti-social behaviour, as well as a range of secondary outcomes which may drive the proposed pollution-behaviour relationship. Our results indicate that exposure to acute air pollution has no statistically significant effect on antisocial behaviour, but significantly reduces both psychological and physiological wellbeing. We find no evidence that pollution affects cognitive ability, present bias, discounting, or risk aversion, four potential pathways which may explain the relationship between pollution and anti-social behaviour. Our study adds to the growing calls for purposefully designed and pre-registered experiments that strengthen experimental (as opposed to correlational or quasi-experimental) identification and thus allow causal insights into the relationship between pollution and anti-social behaviour.

Abstract

We systematically examine the acute impact of exposure to a public health crisis on multiple dimensions of economic decision making and social preferences using unique experimental panel data collected just before and immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19 in China. Exploiting the geographical variation in virus prevalence and unique dataset of longitudinal experiments, we show that while social and economic preferences are largely stable, participants who were more intensely exposed to the virus became more anti-social than those with lower exposure. The effect is particularly pronounced for individuals who experienced an increase in depression or negative affect, which highlights the important role of psychological health as a potential pathway through which the virus outbreak affects behaviour. Our results have important policy implications, as pro-sociality is likely to affect how individuals adopt measures to protect themselves from COVID-19 and comply with public policy limiting its further spread.

with Benedict Probst, Elisabeth Gsottbauer and Andreas Kontoleon

Abstract

Various studies document that poor air quality can lead to adverse effects on individual worker productivity in routine jobs. Yet, the effect of pollution on team performance in contexts that require individuals to work collaboratively on non-routine problem-solving tasks is not well explored. These settings are particularly conducive to situations that require innovative solutions, including tackling global challenges such as pandemics, poverty, or climate change. Here, we document a sizable adverse effect of air pollution on team performance using data from 7,500 live escape games in London. On high-pollution days, teams take on average 8% more time to solve a sequence of non-routine analytical tasks, which require collaborative skills analogous to those needed in the modern workplace. Negative effects increase exponentially and are heterogeneous depending on the type of air pollutant. As team efforts predominantly drive innovation, high levels of air pollution may significantly hamper economic development.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Turning up the heat: Encouraging pro-environmental behaviour through Warm Glow

with Sander van der Linden, Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Andreas Kontoleon

[pre-registration]

Abstract

Understanding the intrinsic motivational basis of pro-environmental behaviour remains a major priority to facilitate pervasive sustainable behaviour change. Here we present results from a large-scale online experiment which explored whether directly appealing to warm glow motives, the positive emotional reward from the act of helping others (or the environment), can be leveraged to catalyse intrinsic motivation towards pro-environmental behaviour. While we show that ‘warm glow’ framing significantly increased anticipated positive emotions relative to a negatively framed ‘cold prickle’ message (but not compared to a baseline condition), we find no differences in incentive-compatible pro-environmental behaviour. Similarly, we find that appealing to intrinsic motives by highlighting the negative emotional consequences of failing to help the environment had no significant effect on donations. Finally, an extrinsically motivated message that increased the salience of a sustainable behaviour social norm had no statistically significant effect on generated donations relative to the control group. Nonetheless, we show that positive emotions are strong predictors of pro-environmental behaviour.