Friday, May 29, 2009

Is the climate change crisis too abstract?

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Scientists are trying to figure out what leads to environmental action and, conversely, environmental apathy. Since climate change is slow-going and relatively invisible, and since we must rely on the word of scientists -- spread by the media, less than 20 percent of those polled are actually doing something about climate change.

Even though global temperatures are rising, the Arctic ice cap is melting, scientists are offering increasingly urgent warnings about climate change, and polls show Americans acknowledging that the threat of global warming is real, we’re still not doing very much about the problem.

Scientists are exploring new theories about what affects behavior concerning global warming, such as people’s decisions to give up their SUVs, weatherize their houses, or support tougher environmental legislation. This research has moved beyond the old theory of rational action that predicted we would make logical changes in our behavior if we were given the right information about a problem.

Here's what they're finding:

The most proactive group, which his researchers call the “Alarmed,” represent 18 percent of the public. These are people who believe that the threat of global warming is real and already are doing something in their lives to address climate change. The largest group, the “Concerned,” is 33 percent of the public. They also are convinced global warming is a serious problem, but have not done anything about it and do not seek information to do so.

The “Cautious” at 19 percent, the “Disengaged” at 12 percent, and the “Doubtful” at 11 percent, are by steps increasingly less trustful of scientists, environmentalists, and the mainstream media, more reliant on information from friends or family, and more likely to believe the television weatherman, acquaintances, and religious figures when it comes to climate change. Only 7 percent, “the Dismissive,” flatly disbelieve in human-induced climate change and actively work against global warming measures. This group reads newspapers at half the national average and gets its news from commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

Read more from Yale's Environment 360.

Everyone can save the environment:

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