Predictors of climate change awareness and risk perception vary around the globe

July 27, 2015, University of Massachusetts Amherst
A composite image of the Western hemisphere of the Earth. Credit: NASA

Using data from the largest cross-sectional survey of climate change perceptions ever conducted, researchers writing in Nature Climate Change today report the first global assessment of factors underlying climate change awareness and risk perception. They say results indicate that to be most effective, climate-related messages must be tailored to public awareness and perceptions specific to each nation.

Co-author Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), says, "Overall, we find that about 40 percent of adults worldwide have never heard of climate change. This rises to more than 65 percent in some developing countries, like Egypt, Bangladesh and India. There is still a critical need for basic climate literacy in many countries."

Ezra Markowitz at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with Tien Ming Lee of Columbia University, Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale and others at Utah State University, say that worldwide, education level is the single strongest predictor of climate change awareness and that understanding the human causes of climate change is the strongest predictor of risk perception, "particularly in Latin America and Europe, whereas perception of local temperature change is the strongest predictor in many African and Asian countries," they write.

The researchers analyzed data from nationally representative samples of 119 countries collected for the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2007 and 2008.

Markowitz, an assistant professor in the environmental conservation department at UMass Amherst, says, "It was interesting to uncover these differences across countries, but in some ways one of the most insightful outcomes is the reminder that what motivates one person to engage with this issue is not necessarily the same as what motivates the next person."

He adds, "Although this is not a revolutionary insight, it is important for communicators and others to keep in mind. Advocates would love a one-size-fits-all approach to climate communication because it would be easier and cheaper, but it is not the most effective strategy; people are too diverse in what connects them to this issue. For communicators this is an important message."

The huge data set included several questions about awareness of climate change and perceptions of how serious a threat it is to respondents and their families. The researchers analyzed responses in relation to such variables as gender, age, religion, education, geographical location, finances, well-being, beliefs about climate change, civic engagement, media habits and satisfaction with local air and water quality. They divided respondents into those "aware" or "unaware" of climate change and call the contrast between developed and developing countries "striking." In North America, Europe and Japan, more than 90 percent of the public is aware of climate change, but in many relatively few are aware of the issue, though many do report having observed changes in local weather patterns.

Markowitz points out that the team used statistical techniques not usually applied to social science research to allow them to conduct a powerful two-level analysis that yielded the most predictive variables by country. Using non-metric multidimensional scaling plus a conditional inference classification tree model allowed them to see the diversity of predictors by country, he adds, and "missing data is less of a problem using this approach. You get to keep more variables for more countries in the analysis, providing a more complete picture of what's going on."

"This allowed us to see, for example, that the most important predictors in China are not the same as in the United States," Markowitz says. Among the factors most important for predicting Americans' awareness of was civic engagement, more access to media and higher education, while in China the strongest predictors were education, urban rather than rural residence and household income, the team reports.

For , among the strongest predictors in the U.S. were beliefs about human influence on the climate, perception of whether local temperatures have changed and attitudes to government involvement in environmental preservation. In China, among the strongest predictors of concern was dissatisfaction with local air quality.

Explore further: How to engage the population with climate change? Frame it as a public health issue

More information: Predictors of public climate change awareness and risk perception around the world, Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2728

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gkam
3 / 5 (10) Jul 27, 2015
The problem in the United States is political prejudice. This issue had been politicized by the purveyors of Filthy Fuels, knowing many folk are easily manipulated emotionally, as they did with "WMD!".

The same folk who screamed "WMD!" are now screaming "LIAR!" at those who want to save the Earth.
danR_2
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2015
purveyors
Filthy Fuel
"WMD!"
"LIAR!"
"save the Earth"

Why am I feeling 'manipulated emotionally'?
gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2015
Are you really susceptible to that?

I rest my case.
danR_2
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2015
Nature Climate Change is essentially an advocacy instrument. Even the lede of the abstract of the article in question starts off with the zinger:

"Climate change is a threat to human societies and natural ecosystems, yet public opinion research finds that public awareness and concern vary greatly."

So, five words into the lede we're already into what amounts to a stealth thesis-statement. How does Nature get this past peer-review?
gkam
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 27, 2015
"Climate change is a threat to human societies and natural ecosystems,"
-----------------------------------

Yes, it is. Are you denying a changing climate is a threat to our way of life?
danR_2
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2015
Are you really susceptible to that?

I rest my case.


Is that a concession?
danR_2
2 / 5 (4) Jul 27, 2015
"Climate change is a threat to human societies and natural ecosystems,"
-----------------------------------

Yes, it is. Are you denying a changing climate is a threat to our way of life?


I'm asserting it's a stealth thesis-statement. Had I submitted something like that to a prof in any of my courses, including climate and related, it might have been rewarded with red ink and a comment from the prof or TA.
gkam
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 27, 2015
Really? I think you might want to re-read that statement, which says climate change will be problematic. It does not say it is AGW, does it?

YOU jumped to that conclusion.

And you cannot deny a change in climate will change the way we live.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2015
The problem in the United States is political prejudice. This issue had been politicized by the purveyors of Filthy Fuels, knowing many folk are easily manipulated emotionally, as they did with "WMD!".
The problem with the US is that psychopaths tend to get elected more often than sane people because they are skilled at lying and cheating to get what they want and dont have the moral restraints that sane people do.

They are easy to spot by among other things their sloganeering which they know robs people of rational thought.
The same folk who screamed "WMD!" are now screaming "LIAR!" at those who want to save the Earth.
You lie george. Thats provable and has been demonstrated many times.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2015
Teh U.S. doesn't reward people for having (useful) skills. It rewards people for carrying an air bladder down a field of grass, or for being prettier than the next person.

Case in point, there are very few "real" educational programs on cable or satellite television in the U.S. Every channel that has tried it has had to resort to science fiction, "reality TV" or "Shock TV" like Ancient Aliens, etc, in order to keep their income.

This is a culture of willful ignorance and disdain for learning.

Ironically, the far left, which claims to be about educating people, nevertheless wants to censor any opinion or arguments on any issue which disagrees with their own, including by force if necessary.

Meanwhile the corporate model supported by the Republican party continues to "fleece the flock", as I watch a certain individual on television who makes even just ten times the average income complain about taxes, even though he is reasonably able to save 99 times average for retirement.
Returners
1 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2015
Talk about psychopaths, planned parenthood murders unborn babies, on the tax payer's dollar, and then dissects them to harvest their organs.

The left doesn't have a problem with murdering babies, but complains about animal testing used to develop medicines to save human lives.

I guess if you don't have a problem with murdering a baby, you don't much value the lives saved by the medical advancements either, that is of course, unless you are the one hypocritically benefiting from it.

Yup.

Looks like both the Republican and Democrat party have more than their fair share of psychopaths.
gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2015
"Ironically, the far left, which claims to be about educating people, nevertheless wants to censor any opinion or arguments on any issue which disagrees with their own, including by force if necessary."
---------------------------------

Really?

It looks like you're bleating freely to me.
leetennant
5 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2015
Not as interesting a study as I was expecting. It basically reinforces what we already knew - people know what they get told and don't know what they haven't been told. Only those with money and education have access to the information that's outside the cultural framework from where they live.
philstacy9
2 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2015
Progressive scientists (think about that) should have their own website since they are modeling political reality.

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