Intergenerational Altruism and Climate Policy Preferences


Climate mitigation constitutes an intergenerational moral dilemma; the decisions we make today will inevitably shape the prospects for generations to come. Yet, we still know little about the relationship between intergenerational altruism—our concerns for the well-being of future generations—and support for costly climate mitigation policies. In this study, we present a novel approach to measuring intergenerational altruism through an intergenerational dilemma, where participants allocate resources across generations. First, we describe how intergenerational altruism depends on the temporal (social) distance between generations and demonstrate robust correlations between intergenerational altruism and support for several climate policies. Then, we leverage randomized participation in the intergenerational dilemma to show that it causally increases climate policy support, an effect we attribute to higher worries about human-induced climate change among treated subjects. An exploratory heterogeneity analysis suggests that the impact of the intergenerational dilemma is primarily driven by female and non-binary participants. In sum, this study presents both a novel measurement strategy and robust evidence of a malleable moral basis of climate policy preferences.

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