Calculated Risk: Comparing Perceptions of Climate Change Impacts and Responsibilities

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Danielle Chipman, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Climate change is a global problem, but perceptions of its severity and impacts have been shown to vary by a person’s location. To begin to characterize and compare how climate change risk perceptions vary around the world, I evaluate various dimensions of risk perceptions, including types of risk, location and scale of risk, and individual versus collective responsibility for addressing climate change, from six countries around the world. Data for this analysis comes from the 2012 Global Ethnohydrology Study, conducted in association with Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City. The study consisted of in-person surveys with open-ended and close-ended questions about climate change uncertainty. This analysis considers responses from six sites, drawing comparisons among individual sites and between developed versus developing contexts. The developing sites surveyed were located in China, Fiji, and Mexico, while the developed sites included were in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The results show that residents in less developed sites tend to have higher perceptions of risk, and they also believe that the impacts of climate change will occur sooner than residents of more developed sites. Respondents from developing locations also tend to have a stronger belief in their own ability to reduce climate change by changing their behavior. All respondents overwhelmingly indicate that their country has a responsibility to deal with climate change, but that their government is currently not doing enough. Overall, residents in developing and developed contexts exhibit significant differences in their perceptions of climate change risk. Understanding these differences can help policymakers develop place-specific strategies for climate change mitigation.