Article

Determinants and Measurement of Climate Change Risk Perception, Worry, and Concern

Sander van der Linden

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science


Published online March 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190228620 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.318

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Individuals, both within and between different countries, vary substantially in the extent to which they view climate change as a risk. What could explain such variation in climate change risk perception around the world? Climate change is relatively unique as a risk in the sense that it is difficult for people to experience directly or even detect on a purely perceptual or sensory level. In fact, research across the social and behavioral sciences has shown that although people might correctly perceive some changes in long-term climate conditions, psychological factors are often much more influential in determining how the public perceives the risk of climate change. Indeed, decades of research has shown that cognitive, affective, social, and cultural factors all greatly influence the public’s perception of risk, and that these factors, in turn, often interact with each other in complex ways. Yet, although a wide variety of cognitive, experiential, socio-cultural and demographic characteristics have all proven to be relevant, are there certain factors that systematically stand out in explaining and predicting climate change risk perception around the world? And even if so, what do we mean, exactly, by the term “risk perception” and to what extent does the way in which risk perception is measured influence the outcome? Last but certainly not least, how important is public concern about climate change in determining people’s level of behavioral engagement and policy-support for the issue?

Keywords: risk perception; climate change; global warming; worry; concern; public opinion

Article.  19693 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Communication Studies

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