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Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
1112 Allen Building
4350 TAMU College Station, Texas 77843-4350

Dr. Vedlitz and Co-authors Publish Study on US Perceptions of Climate Change Risk and Policy Support

Drs. Arnold Vedlitz, Samuel Brody, and Himanshu Grover have recently published their study on the US public’s perceptions of climate change risk and how these perceptions are influenced through a risk-stress-capacity model that combines of individual and local environmental factors. In this way, their study provides a deeper understanding of risk perception and its implications for climate change policy.

The authors use data from a NOAA-funded, representative national survey of US adults to assess several key variables – individual stress, individual capacity, and climate change risk perception. The individual stress measure, based on 16 survey questions, captures respondent behaviors that contribute to climate change. Using 17 survey questions, the individual capacity variable represents respondent views about their responsibility and ability to respond to climate change. Risk perception, based on seven survey questions, includes anticipated impacts on several aspects of the individual’s well-being. These survey variables are then integrated with measures of scientific risk assessments and historical natural disasters associated with climate change effects. These objective measures of risk are geographically localized and linked to respondents via zip code. In keeping with their hypotheses, the researchers find that respondents with higher levels of objective risk and individual capacity have a statistically significant higher perception of climate change risk. Respondents with higher individual climate stress have a lower risk perception of climate change.

Drs. Vedlitz, Brody, and Grover’s study has several implications. First, communicating about climate change should be more effective in conveying its risks when local effects are emphasized. Second, educating people on the causes and localized impacts of climate change should increase support for localized responses. And, third, connecting climate change risks with pro-environment behavior may lead to greater integration and support for policies that incorporate climate change with local sustainability efforts.

Grover, Himanshu, Samuel D. Brody, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2017. “Understanding Climate Change Risk Perception in the USA.” International Journal of Global Warming 13(2): 113–137.