A new paper on climate change has urged advocates and activists to “develop tailored climate communication strategies for individual nations” – reflecting on the fact that is mainly the world’s wealthier nations who are ‘aware’ of their propaganda, even though they see global warming as less of a threat.
The results follow similar studies which found that the more educated people are about climate change, the less likely they are to expect it to affect them.
According to the paper, published in Nature Climate Change, more than 90 per cent of people living in Western countries such as the USA, Australia and those across Europe are aware of climate change, but in those countries, less than half of the population believes that climate change poses a threat to themselves or their families.
Conversely, awareness of climate change was much lower in developing countries such as India and Indonesia, but amongst those who are aware of it, the majority believe it to be a real threat to themselves and their families.
Japan is one of the few wealthy countries to show high levels of concern over the risk posed by climate change, with more than 90 percent of Japanese people believing in to pose a personal risk.
South America was the only continent to combine both high levels of awareness and of perception of risk, with more than 90 percent of those aware of climate change across South America saying that they thought themselves personally at risk.
The papers authors say the results illustrate “the need to develop tailored climate communication strategies for individual nations. The results suggest that improving basic education, climate literacy, and public understanding of the local dimensions of climate change are vital to public engagement and support for climate action.”
The results were derived from a 2007/8 Gallup World Poll which interviewed people in 119 countries, representing about 90 percent of the world’s population. The researchers, who work in US academic institutions, classified those surveyed as either “aware” or “unaware” of climate change, and then went on to group those who were aware into one of two categories – “serious” or “not serious” depending to their response to the question: “How serious of a threat is global warming to you and your family?”
They then used further variables recorded by the Gallup poll to delve into how people’s opinions on climate change have been formed. They hypothesised and confirmed that in Western countries, those who are most educated were best informed about climate change, and those who thought it was man made were most likely to consider it a threat.
In China, belief that global warming is man-made is also an indicator of whether someone believes climate change to pose a risk, but so is dissatisfaction with local air quality, a factor which does not register in the West to the same extent.
In much of Africa and Asia, perception of local temperature change is the factor most likely to be associated with perception of personal risk from the effects of climate change.
Dr Debbie Hopkins, an expert at the social understandings of climate change at the University of Otago, told The Guardian that many in the West view climate change as a remote issue.
“People can be aware of it but they see it as a distant risk and don’t engage with it much,” she said. “This disjunction can negate the feeling that we need to act on climate change.
“In many developed countries we have confidence in our adaptive capacity. We think we can adapt and cope, and in many ways we can do so more than developing economies.
“We also talk about global averages and that’s a difficult term for many people because two degrees doesn’t seem like a lot. That risk seems diminished whereas if you’re living somewhere with extreme variability and extreme weather events, two degrees can seem like a lot.”
However, Dr Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation told Breitbart London that the study merely affirms other similar polls which show that the more educated a population is about climate change, the more sceptical it is likely to be about claims that global warming will have catastrophic effects.
“The new survey confirms once again what numerous surveys have found in recent years: educated and informed people in in the Western world are generally sceptical about alarmist climate predictions. While they accept basic science, they no longer trust climate scientists to tell the truth,” he said.
Dr Peiser pointed to the UN’s ongoing ‘My World’ survey which asks people to rank their top six priorities for the world. After nearly 7.7 million responses from people worldwide, climate change ranks plum last of a list of 16 priorities, with just one in five people placing it in their top six.
The results show that wealthier counties are far more likely to list action on climate change as a priority than developing countries are. Education is the number one priority globally amongst virtually every demographic.
Similarly, Ipsos Mori’s Global Trends 2014 survey found that more people agreed than disagreed with the statement “the government is just using environmental issues as an excuse to raise taxes.” Globally, 58 percent of people agreed with the statement against just 31 percent who disagreed with it.
However, by and large people did not believe that the current climate change patterns are a natural phenomenon: globally, 41 percent agreed with the statement “The climate change we are currently seeing is a natural phenomenon that happens from time to time”, but 49 percent disagreed with it.
This trend was reversed in the US where 52 percent of those polled agreed with the statement while 35 percent disagreed, and the UK, where 48 percent agreed against 38 percent who disagreed.