3.4 Individual beliefs and attitudes

Beliefs and attitudes about the severity of climate change have been found to be a function of three main factors: personal experiences (e.g. exposure to weather disasters), perceived consequences of climate change (e.g. relative vulnerability) and messages from informants (e.g. scientists via the media). Thus, knowledge alone may not increase support for a relevant policy – a series of reasoned steps is required whereby knowledge increases certainty, which in turn increases the perception of national seriousness, and then this increases policy support. There has been limited research on the effects of development and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on public understanding of climate change, but indications are that such organisations (who base their own information on scientific research) may be able to bridge the gap between science and the public and overcome bureaucratic inertia to change. Being in a position to make statements beyond simply the conclusions of scientific reports, such NGOs have sometimes been accused of alarmism; however, they have also been seen to be effective in communicating climate change issues publicly.

Activity 11

Consider your own views on climate change. Starting from the first time you can remember being aware of the issue, write a timeline of events and sources that you feel have shaped your views. These can be reports, news stories, websites, events, personal contacts or anything else you feel is relevant.

3.3 The impact of ‘scientific uncertainty’

3.5 Influencing behaviour change