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date: 30 May 2017

Country Location, Nationality, and Beliefs about Climate Change

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Despite scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causation of climate change, and ever-growing knowledge on the biophysical impacts of climate change, there is large variability in public perceptions of and belief in climate change. Public support for national and international climate policy has a strong positive association with certainty that climate change is occurring, human caused, serious, and solvable. To achieve greater acceptance of national climate policy and international agreements, it is important to raise public belief in climate change and understandings of personal climate risk.

Public understandings of climate change and associated risk perceptions have received significant academic attention. This research has been conducted across a range of spatial scales, with particular attention on large scale, nationally representative surveys to gain insights into country-scale perceptions of climate change. Generalizability of nationally representative surveys allows some degree of national comparison; however, the ability to conduct such comparisons has been limited by the availability of comparative datasets. Consequently, empirical insights have been geographically biased towards Europe and North America, with less understanding of public perceptions of climate change in other geographical settings, including the global South. Moreover, a focus on quantitative surveying techniques can overlook the more nuanced, culturally determined factors, which contribute to the construction of climate change perceptions.

The physical and human geographies of climate change are diverse. This is due to the complex spatial dimensions of climate change and includes both the observed and anticipated geographical differentiation in risks, impacts, and vulnerabilities. While country location and national climate can impact how climate change is understood, so too will socio-cultural factors, such as national identity and culture(s). Studies have reported high variability in climate change perceptions, the result of a complex interplay between personal experiences of climate, social norms, and worldviews. Exploring the development of national scale analyses and their findings over time, and the comparability of national datasets, may provide some insights into the factors that influence public perceptions of climate change, and may identify national-scale interventions and communications to raise risk perception and understanding of climate change.