KlimaCampus Kolloquium: Attribution to anthropogenic causes helps prevent adverse events

The science of extreme event attribution (EEA) has rapidly established itself as a popular tool for quantifying - ex post - the anthropogenic contribution to recent adverse events in the climate system. Yet, whether backward-looking causal attribution can lead to future behavioral change is conceptually unclear, and evidence that it can reduce anthropogenic stress on these systems is lacking. Our online experiment with 3,031 participants in three treatment conditions provides a proof of principle. There, adverse events can arise either as a result of excess stress on the system by participants’ pursuit of individual material benefits (anthropogenic cause) or as a result of chance (natural cause). We examine both the impact on future anthropogenic stress of making past adverse events causally attributable and the demand for attributability. We find that whether an adverse event can be causally attributed is behaviorally relevant: Attribution to an anthropogenic cause reduces future anthropogenic stress and leads to fewer adverse events compared to no attributability and compared to attribution to a natural cause. Joint causation has no effect. There is demand for ex-post event attribution in the population of participants, even when costly. The conjecture that attribution science can be behaviorally impactful, socially valuable, and in demand therefore rests on promising experimental foundations.

Authors: Florian Diekert, Timo Goeschl, and Christian König-Kersting




15:15 h


Bundesstr. 53, room 022/023
Seminar Room 022/023, Ground Floor, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Hamburg


Timo Goeschl, Heidelberg University


Simone Rödder

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