UBC Undergraduate Research

Local vs Global Approaches to Climate Change Education : Learning Experience Gyamfi, Joycelyn; Coady, Vanessa; McVicar, Allison; Wang, Kathy; Li, Andrew; Clayton-Carrol, Hannah


In recent decades a scientific consensus has been reached – climate change is real, accelerating, and at least partially driven by human action. Despite this knowledge, belief in anthropogenic (originating in humans) climate change is far from universal. In 2018, only 57% of adults in the United States believed that human actions played a major role in climate change, and only 65% believed that individual citizens should do more to prevent global warming. Various theories have been proposed as to why there is a gap between scientific consensus and popular belief in the necessity of environmental initiatives. Some theories suggest that lack of direct experience with climate change reduces feelings of personal risk. A study investigating the relationship between experience with climate change and pro-environmental attitudes found that people who had experienced extreme weather such as flooding were more convinced of climate change and concerned with its effects. They were also more willing to change their behaviours. However, this concern was mediated by feelings of local vulnerability and perceived efficacy of action. Investigating the notion of risk, researchers looked at public support for environmental initiatives in the US. They found that Americans were more likely to support initiatives to reduce pollution than initiatives to control resources, and found stronger support for local (and national) actions as opposed to global actions. These findings support a personal risk hypothesis. In contrast, a study done in South Korea found that local concern predicted environmental action only to the extent that people were emotionally attached to their neighbourhood, and that global environmental concern was a more consistent predictor of pro-environmental behaviour. A cross-cultural study explored what common factors result in public consensus on climate change globally. Researchers found that people with higher education were more likely to share common conceptions of climate change, implying that education may be the key to creating and maintaining support for effective global environmental initiatives. If education is the key, then the question of whether local or global educational information will best invigorate climate change concern in a populace becomes a critical one. Our research question was to determine whether focusing on environmental issues in a local (Vancouver, BC) versus global (New Dehli, India) context affected people’s support of climate change initiatives. We predicted that people who read the information about conditions in Vancouver would be more likely to sign a pro-environmental petition than those who read about conditions in India. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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