A new study has come out that highlights the impact of education on climate change awareness. As this Washington Post article explains, the study surveyed 119 countries around the world, and found a very strong correlation between education and climate awareness. Specifically, the study explored the factors that contribute to a) climate awareness and b) how big a risk climate change is perceived to be. An astonishing 40 percent of respondents had never heard of climate change – and that number was even higher in certain climate-vulnerable countries like India and Bangladesh.
Across the board, education was the common factor in climate change awareness, or lack thereof. Differences in perception of climate change causes, severity, and necessary actions were largely traced to more local, cultural factors. For example, in China, risk perception was influenced by local air and water quality, while in the U.S. risk perception was swayed by overall satisfaction with the government’s environment policies and whether or not local temperatures were rising. In developing countries like Bangladesh, those who were aware of climate change tended to perceive the risks to be higher than their counterparts in developed countries.
While it is alarming to realize that forty percent of study respondents around the world had not heard of climate change, it is encouraging that education’s value and importance in responding to climate change has been re-affirmed. By taking a more nuanced, culturally aware approach to climate change education, we can continue to make important strides towards climate change progress.
A major concern for climate activists is figuring out what drives the public’s beliefs about climate change. This information can help scientists better engage with the public and help activists understand what factors are likely to make people take climate change seriously as a threat.
Until now, most research into public attitudes on climate change have focused on Western nations, like the United States, Europe and Australia, leaving scientists with little knowledge of how much awareness there is about climate change in other parts of the world and how people feel about it. But a new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, provides a more inclusive look at the issue, giving scientists greater insight into what factors are most likely to make people care about climate change — if they know it’s happening at all.
The study focused on two major questions: what factors most influence whether a person is aware of climate change and, for those that know it’s happening, what factors influence how big of a risk that person thinks it poses. The researchers found that, worldwide, education is the biggest predictor of climate change awareness. Major factors that affected a person’s risk perception included understanding that climate change is caused by humans — this was especially true in the Americas and Europe — and noticing local changes in temperature, a particularly high indicator in many countries in Africa and Asia.