I think the reason is simple. Progressives prefer government action. That belief allows one to eschew personal action. That’s why Conservatives give more money to charity than Liberals. And this explains why celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio pushes Global Warming by flying around to conferences in his private jet.
Participants in a year-long study who doubted the scientific consensus on the issue “opposed policy solutions,” but at the same time, they “were most likely to report engaging in individual-level, pro-environmental behaviors,” writes a research team led by University of Michigan psychologist Michael Hall.
Conversely, those who expressed the greatest belief in, and concern about, the warming environment “were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions.”
Hall and his colleagues can only speculate about the reasons for their results. But regarding the concerned but inactive, the psychological phenomenon known as moral licensing is a likely culprit.
Previous research has found doing something altruistic—even buying organic foods—gives us license to engage in selfish activity. We’ve “earned” points in our own mind. So if you’ve pledged some money to Greenpeace, you feel entitled to enjoying the convenience of a plastic bag.
Regarding climate change skeptics, remember that conservatism prizes individual action over collective efforts. So while they may assert disbelief in order to stave off coercive (in their view) actions by the government, many could take pride in doing what they can do on a personal basis.