4 Factors That Affect How People Feel About Climate Change
People around the world are increasingly united on the need for global cooperation to fight climate change. According to a new Pew survey, 78 percent of the global population supports an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. However, this and other surveys have found that support for fighting pollution doesn’t necessarily mean a person is greatly concerned about climate change.
As this Newsweek article spells out, levels of concern depend on several key factors:
1. Direct experience with climate impacts. People who live in areas that have been affected or are more likely to be affected by drought, floods, or scarcity of resources are more concerned about climate change. For example, 50 percent of American respondents named drought as their biggest climate-related worry – and that level goes up to 63 percent in the West. That’s why it’s important for climate communicators to make audiences understand the local, personally relevant impacts and consequences of climate change.
2. Political affiliation. Only 20 percent of Republicans said climate change is a “very serious problem,” vs. 68 percent of Democrats. However, 50 percent of Republicans support lowering emissions. Focusing on the co-benefits of climate solutions, such as cleaner air and improved public health, can help build bipartisan support.
3. Religious affiliation. Catholics expressed far more concern about climate change than those who identify as Protestant. This may well be due to the influence of Pope Francis, who has made a bold, public call for climate action on moral grounds. It’s a good illustration of our own research findings: People are more open to climate messages that come from leaders they respect and admire.
4. Gender. Pew found that women are more inclined to feel lifestyle changes will be needed in order to fight climate change. It’s true that shifts in behavior will be necessary – we can’t solve the climate challenge with a “business as usual” approach – but we need to emphasize that climate solutions mean an opportunity to create a better world rather than a sacrifice. We can also help make behavior change easier by providing incentives, helping people understand which actions have the greatest impact, and making the desired outcome the default outcome.
By Zoe Schlanger, contributor to Newsweek
When world leaders gather in three weeks in Paris to try to negotiate a climate change agreement, they’ll have three quarters of the global population behind them, according to the latest Pew poll of climate attitudes, published Thursday.
Globally, 78 percent of people back the idea that their respective countries should reduce emissions as part of an international agreement, Pew found. Of the 40 countries they surveyed, the majority of the population in all but one country (Pakistan) favored an emissions-reduction agreement. But that doesn’t mean everyone is equally convinced that climate change is a serious problem. Levels of concern vary significantly based on political affiliation, age, gender—and how likely it is that one’s country will be in the direct line of devastation from climate change in the near future.
Image credit: Zoe Schlanger/Newsweek