chapter  3
33 Pages

The global survey on public attitudes towards climate change: methodology and literature review

There is very little information available on how the public perceives the risks and threats of climate change at local and national levels. Funded by the Foundation of Innovation (Stiftung für Innovation) Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, and with support by Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning as well as ASU’s Lightworks initiative, the “Global Survey on Public Attitudes towards Climate Change” research project started in 2010. The research project included a nine-country survey of public perceptions and attitudes in 2010-2011. The nations include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Japan, and Spain. The survey was motivated in part to gain knowledge of the extent to which nations express similar or different viewpoints and perceptions with respect to the various social dimensions of climate change and its impacts. Certainly, we know from the social science literature that threats, whether from natural phenomena and from technological origins are perceived differently based on national experience with the hazard, geography (coastal areas verses inland territory), stage of economic development, and the nature and type of the hazard. There is also evidence that these public perceptions of risk may change over time. Because the idea of global climate change impacts is relatively new, unlike floods and hurricanes, there is little data on how people perceive the causes to be, the nature of the threats over time and space, and our abilities to resolve the problems. We are also unaware of the public’s predispositions concerning trust in the information about climate change and their own belief structures. This chapter consists of two main parts. The first part discusses the research methodology utilized in the “Global Survey on Public Attitudes towards Climate Change” research project, especially the survey component.