State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Decision Making Under Uncertainty at AAAS

Researchers from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) will participate in a poster session featuring the work of each center funded under the National Science Foundation’s “Decision Making Under Uncertainty” grant. Nada Petrovic (post-doctoral fellow) and Lisa Zaval (PhD student) will present the poster “What’s in a frame when it comes to fossil fuels: Does health matter more than climate change?” and Matt Sisco (program coordinator) will present the poster “Why do people care about sea lions? A fishing game to study the value of endangered species.” Please see abstracts below.

Both posters will be presented Sunday, February 17, 2013: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM in Auditorium/Exhibit Hall C (Hynes Convention Center).

We hope to see you there!


“What’s in a frame when it comes to fossil fuels: Does health matter more than climate change?”

Nada Petrovic (post-doctoral fellow) and Lisa Zaval (PhD student)

Post-doc Nada Petrovic presents a poster “What’s in a frame when it comes to fossil fuels: Does health matter more than climate change?” at the AAAS conference in Boston.


In the United States, the public consistently ranks climate change as a low national priority even though over half of  the population is convinced of the reality and seriousness of the problem.  These seemingly contradictory statements can be explained through a lack of personal engagement and a sense of spatial and temporal distance from the effects of climate change.  Yet, the chief method for climate change mitigation, the reduction of fossil fuel use, would also reduce air pollution, which is responsible each year for 0.8 million premature deaths and 6.4 million lost life years worldwide.  The health behavior literature demonstrates that personal perception of risk is one of the strongest motivators of behavioral change. The objective of this study was to understand whether emphasizing present-day public health impacts has a greater effect on beliefs/actions toward fossil fuel reduction than emphasizing climate change impacts.  A secondary aim was to understand what other characteristics (demographic, political, religious, etc.) predict beliefs and actions.  We will present preliminary data that begins to answer these questions and discuss next steps in this project.

“Why do people care about sea lions? A fishing game to study the value of endangered species”

Matt Sisco (CRED program coordinator)

Co-authors: Min Gong, Altisource; and Geoffrey Heal, Columbia Business School



Matt Sisco, CRED program coordinator, shares research on human motivations to protect endangered species at the AAAS meeting in Boston.

Previous research proposes that human beings have various motivations to protect endangered species such as use and non-use values. However, it has been difficult to tease apart these values at the behavioral level. Using an innovative fishing game, we study an important tradeoff between one kind of use value (monetary value) and one kind of non-use value (existence value) of the endangered Steller sea lion. In the fishing game, players make repeated decisions on how much Pollock to harvest for profit in each period in a dynamic ecosystem. The population of the endangered sea lion depends on the population of Pollock, which in turn depends on the harvesting behavior of participants. The data show that in general people responded to the financial value, but not the existence value, of the sea lion by cutting down commercial fish harvesting to keep more sea lions in the ecosystem. However, not all people behaved the same regarding the existence value. Females displayed a higher existence value than males, as did people who reported stronger pro-environmental attitudes than those with weaker pro-environmental attitudes. Our findings have multiple implications for environmental advocacy campaigns and public policy design.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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