How the American public views the relationship between climate change and security

June 27, 2017, The City University of New York
How the American public views the relationship between climate change and security
Credit: The City University of New York

Researchers from the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported new data concerning how the American public views the relationship between climate change and security. Working with GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK), the study's authors, Professor Charles B. Strozier and Research Fellow Kelly A. Berkell, designed questions to begin quantifying public familiarity with the idea of climate change as a security threat, along with the potential impact that increased or changed awareness might exert on individual lifestyle and voting decisions.

Findings of the Public Perceptions of Climate Change and Security report suggest that the public – even those who believe that change is happening and that human actions are causing or contributing to it – remains largely unfamiliar with the idea of a connection between climate change and security. About 38 percent of all respondents, and 42 percent of those who think human-caused climate change is occurring, expressed familiarity with the general idea that climate change may multiply global threats such as political violence or mass migrations, or act as a catalyst for conflict. Even fewer, only about 14 percent of all respondents, had ever heard or read that a severe drought in Syria, likely caused or worsened by climate change, was one of many factors that helped spark the initial conflict that continues there today.

Nevertheless, respondents indicated openness to changes in behavior if they came to believe that climate change and security were causally interrelated. Participants reported the greatest willingness to take action if U.S. national security, rather than global security, were at stake. Taking an inclusive approach to "openness," encompassing "definitely," "probably," and "maybe" responses, researchers found that 90 percent of those who think human-climate change is happening were open to modifying their voting priorities, and 93 percent were open to seriously considering lifestyle changes, if they perceived a threat to national security. When excluding "maybe" responses, willingness to "probably" or "definitely" adapt behavior along the same lines measured at 66 percent and 67 percent among those who think that human-caused climate change is occurring.

While the and intelligence communities, as well as academic researchers, have explored the connections between climate change and for years, relatively little priorresearch has probed in this area. The could hold significant implications for communication, particularly if reinforced and expanded upon by further research.

The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population, and fielded to 1002 male and female adults. GfK weighted the interviews to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total population. The margin of error on weighted data is plus or minus three percentage points. This research was supported by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York.

Explore further: Saying 'climate change' instead of 'global warming' decreases partisan gap by 30 percent in U.S.

Related Stories

How will climate change impact water resources?

June 7, 2017

Access to adequate fresh water supplies is a critically important societal challenge posed by climate change. With rising heat and shifting rainfall patterns, and reduced water storage resilience, fresh water supplies are ...

Study: Believe you can stop climate change and you will

May 4, 2017

If we believe that we can personally help stop climate change with individual actions - such as turning the thermostat down—then we are more likely to make a difference, according to research from the University of Warwick.

Climate change fans global security crisis: Kerry

October 18, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Saturday that climate change was a threat to global security and has inflamed volatile situations from Europe's migration crisis to the Syrian conflict.

Recommended for you

Evidence of earliest life on Earth disputed

October 17, 2018

When Australian scientists presented evidence in 2016 of life on Earth 3.7 billon years ago—pushing the record back 220 million years—it was a big deal, influencing even the search for life on Mars.

Arctic greening thaws permafrost, boosts runoff

October 17, 2018

A new collaborative study has investigated Arctic shrub-snow interactions to obtain a better understanding of the far north's tundra and vast permafrost system. Incorporating extensive in situ observations, Los Alamos National ...

Arctic ice sets speed limit for major ocean current

October 17, 2018

The Beaufort Gyre is an enormous, 600-mile-wide pool of swirling cold, fresh water in the Arctic Ocean, just north of Alaska and Canada. In the winter, this current is covered by a thick cap of ice. Each summer, as the ice ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.