Apocalypse Awareness

Apocalypse Awareness

Is climate change a fact to you?

Or more like an emotion?

A fear perhaps

or more of a shiver

And WTF is on with these glaciers melting like

there is no tomorrow

there is no tomorrow.

is there?

Decades after the scientific community agreed on the existence of human-made climate change, substantial parts of the world’s population remain unaware or unconvinced that human activity is responsible for the global climate crisis. Although belief in human-made climate change varies strongly within and across different countries, the causes of the observed cross-national variation remain largely unknown. Most existing analyses have focuses primarily on analyzing climate change attitudes across Western English-speaking democracies and paid little attention to the formation of climate change belief in the Global South1. Moreover, many studies scrutinized public attitudes within specific countries (like the US, Germany or India), examining how individual attributes such as political orientations, cultural values, and demographic traits explain within-country variation in climate change belief.

These studies have shown that climate change belief in the US and in Europe is strongly influenced by political orientations and by demographic characteristics. Here, younger age cohorts and females, as well as individuals with environmental and left-wing worldviews, are more likely to believe in human-made climate change than others. Examining 25 nationally representative polls from different countries, Hornsey and colleagues also observed that climate change belief is most strongly associated with political orientations and less with demographic characteristics like education, age, or gender. However, most of the nationally representative polls available to their study contained data from US-Americans, Australians, and Europeans. When some of the authors later collected original data in 24 geographically much more diverse countries, they discovered that globally, the political stance is not frequently correlated with climate change belief. While right-wing orientation and individualism strongly predict climate change denial in the US and other English-speaking countries, this relationship was insignificant or even reversed in most non-English speaking nations. .Although no other study has analyzed individual climate belief in a similarly diverse sample, research on climate change concern has shown similar cross-national variation in the way in which individual traits shape climate change attitudes. Lewis, Palm, and Feng, for example, find that political orientations and gender predict climate change concern fairly consistently across English-speaking Western democracies, but hardly anywhere else. In an even broader study, Lee and colleagues analyzed data from 119 countries and found climate change concerns to be strongly influenced by education, climate change belief, and perception of local temperature changes. However, they also observed a large variation in the prediction effects of these variables across different countries. Several other studies also reveal a substantial variation in the direction in which demographic traits, like age or gender, correlate with climate change concern. While women and younger age cohorts tend to be more concerned about climate change in English-speaking constituencies, the opposite is true in most African countries. Although these findings imply that national circumstances strongly modulate the development of climate change attitudes, little is known about the specific magnitudes and forms in which country-level conditions influence individual climate change belief. Comparing average climate change belief across 128 countries, Knight found country-level climate change belief to be systematically higher in societies that are wealthier, better educated, left-leaning, and more vulnerable to climate impacts. While this study suggests that country-level conditions influence climate change belief, the study’s focus on country-level correlations does not allow to differentiate the effects from individual traits and societal circumstances. Moreover, the choice of using an OLS regression introduces a natural limit to a number of covariates that can be considered and assumes linear relationships between all variables, an assumption that is questionable given the observed heterogeneity in comparative analyses of climate change belief.

Text by Sebastian Levi

From his publication Country-level conditions like prosperity, democracy, and regulatory culture predict individual climate change belief

Photos by pasha wreszinski for Primavera Anónima

who personally believes that climate change awareness is subjective to extraordinary experiences.