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Talking in the present, caring for the future: Language and environment

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  • Mavisakalyan, Astghik
  • Tarverdi, Yashar
  • Weber, Clas

Abstract

This paper identifies a new source that explains environmental behaviour: the presence of future tense marking in language. We predict that languages that grammatically mark the future affect speakers’ intertemporal preferences and thereby reduce their willingness to address environmental problems. We first show that speakers of languages with future tense marking are less likely to adopt environmentally responsible behaviours and to support policies to prevent environmental damage. We then document that this effect holds across countries: future tense marking is an important determinant of climate change policies and global environmental cooperation. The results suggest that there may be deep and surprising obstacles for attempts to address climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Mavisakalyan, Astghik & Tarverdi, Yashar & Weber, Clas, 2018. "Talking in the present, caring for the future: Language and environment," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 1370-1387.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:46:y:2018:i:4:p:1370-1387
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2018.01.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Astghik Mavisakalyan & Yashar Tarverdi, 2017. "Gender and climate change: Do female parliamentarians make a difference?," Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper series WP1704, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School.
    2. repec:eee:poleco:v:56:y:2019:i:c:p:151-164 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Language; Linguistic relativity; Intertemporal preference; Climate change; Environmental policy;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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