Research Highlights | Published:

Climate change

Knowledge alters public perception

Nature volume 533, page 10 (05 May 2016) | Download Citation

An awareness of the causes of climate change, rather than its consequences or physical characteristics, can increase the public's concern about global warming.

Past studies have suggested that values are more important than knowledge in influencing public perception about climate-change risks. Jing Shi of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and her colleagues conducted an online survey of roughly 400 people in each of six countries: Canada, China, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, controlling for cultural views and values. The results suggest that people are more likely to be concerned about global warming if they understand its basic causes, such as human activities. However, knowledge about the physical aspects of the climate system itself (for example, that burning oil produces carbon dioxide) was correlated with a reduction in concern.

Tailored climate-education programmes might sway public attitudes, the authors say.

Nature Clim. Change (2016)

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