What shapes perceptions of climate change?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

343 Scopus citations

Abstract

Climate change, as a slow and gradualmodification of average climate conditions, is a difficult phenomenon to detect and track accurately based on personal experience. Insufficient concern and trust also complicate the transfer of scientific descriptions of climate change and climate variability from scientists to the public, politicians, and policy makers, which is not a simple transmission of facts. Instead, worldview and political ideology, two elements of the cultural context of decisions, guide attention toward events that threaten the desired or existing social order, and shape expectations of change, which in turn guide the detection and interpretation of climate events. Action that follows from climate change perceptions can be informed by different processes. Affect-based decisions about climate change are unlikely to motivate significant action, as politicians and the general public are not particularly worried about climate risks, and because attempts to scare people into greater action may have unintended negative consequences. Analysisbased decisions are also unlikely to result in significant action, because of large discounting of uncertain future costs of climate risks compared to the certain and immediate costs of climate changemitigation. Rule-based decisions that determine behavior based on moral or social responsibility may hold out the best prospects for sustainable action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-342
Number of pages11
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Volume1
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Atmospheric Science

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