One Earth, Volume 4, 17 December 2021,
Behavioral science approaches to promoting sustainable action have mainly focused on cognitive processes, whereas the role of emotions has received comparably little attention. However, emotions have a great but currently not fully exploited potential to contribute to a sustainable behavior change. In this perspective, we summarize recent research emphasizing the central and indispensable role of emotion in human thinking and judgment. We discuss how these insights can promote affective reactivity toward sustainability issues, help leverage the potential of emotion to motivate action, and improve emotional climate change communication and intervention strategies. We outline a research agenda that we see as crucial for obtaining a solid evidence base on how emotions can optimally promote sustainable behavior. This paper is meant to stimulate discussion and a coordinated research effort on how emotions may be better leveraged to promote large-scale sustainable action and to promote a stronger integration of emotional strategies into the toolbox of policy makers.