Perspectives, Gaps And Uncertainty On Global Climate Change Attitude And The Implications For Australia

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Abstract

Understanding the complex human behaviours in response to climate change (CC) is important to undertake mitigation measures. The objective of this paper is to review the attitude, gaps and uncertainty of global climate change and the implications for Australia. While Australia is the most vulnerable country to climate change, an inevitable dismissive audience segments belief that climate change is not happening and strongly oppose the climate change mitigation action to archives low carbon future. Therefore, a comprehensive and continuous climate change educational advocacy is important to lift the uncertain audience segments to certain audience segments.

Introduction

Global warming is one of the major environmental, economic and social threat of the globe and for Australia in particular. 95 percent global warming has been persuaded by human-being from the use of fossil-fuel, whereas, only five percent being natural causes (Pachauri et al., 2014). The on-going human-induced CC having a widespread impact in every aspect of human life and natural systems which presenting in the form of record-breaking air and ocean temperature increase, extreme flooding and long-lasting drought, rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and rising of average sea level (Pachauri et al., 2014; Armstrong et al., 2018; Huntley, 2019). That is why in the past few decades, CC has emerged as a major policy issue and a political debate across the globe. And, in 2015 all nations reached a landmark agreement and sign “The Paris Agreement” keeping the global temperature rise 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius to combat CC, while, United States and Australia still struggling to limit their greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions (Richie et al., 2019).

However, the global public attitude, belief, risk perception and motivation on CC and mitigation actions remain unclear and varies among countries (developed and developing countries), demography (age, gender, income, and education), geography and indigenous knowledge (Morrison et al 2013; Huntley, 2019). The objective of this paper is to review the attitude, gaps and uncertainty of global CC and the implications for Australia in comparison of other developed countries. The next section of this paper is organizing as global environmental change perspectives, gaps and uncertainties of climate science and implications for Australia CC actions.

Global Environmental Change Perspectives

A recent survey conducted by Poushter and Huang (2019) indicated that CC is the top global threat than the Islamic military group (ISIS) threat and cyber-attack. However, People’s perspective and understanding of global CC and its mitigation response varies from countries to countries and within the country (Hine at al., 2013; Huntley, 2019). According to Armstrong et al. (2018), 60 percent of the global adult population have awareness and belief CC is happening, whereas 40 percent not. The largest greenhouse gases emitting countries (USA, China and Australia) are the least believers than lower GHGs emitting (Latin America and Africa) countries (Poushter and Huang, 2019). Huntley (2019) stated that public attitudes and actions on CC are informed not just by understanding and acceptance of climate science but also by their indigenous knowledge in response to CC.

United States perspectives

United States emits one-fourth of the global GHGs to the atmosphere. However, a survey conducted by Poushter and Huang (2019) shows that global CC is the third major threat (59 percent) for Americans after Cyber-attack (74 percent) and ISIS threats (62 percent) respectively. The Yale Project for Climate Change (YPCC) and George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication (GMU4C) researchers develop six-unique audience segmentation analysis tool called “Global Warmings Six Americas” to understand the public attitude on CC (YPCC, 2009; Maibach et al., 2011; Morrison et al., 2013; Armstrong et al., 2018; Huntley, 2019). As shown in Fig.1, the alerted segment significantly increased by 13 percent in ten years, which means that US adult belief the happening global CC and strongly support climate action to reduce the threat. Surprisingly, the dismissive adults increased by three percent which they disbelief the happening CC and strongly opposed the climate action to archives low carbon future.

Global Warming Five Australia Segmentation Analysis

According to recent Richie et al. (2019) report, Australia GHGs emission increased by five percent from 2018 to reach 39 percent in 2019. Moreover, only 60 percent of Australian belief that global CC is a major threat other than the threat of Islamic military group (ISIS) and global cyber-attack (Poushter and Huang, 2019). Hine et al. (2013) adopt an Australian version the Global Warming Five Australia and conducted broad research and found that (Fig.2) 65% of Australians believe that CC is occurring and real which means they are alarmed and concerned, while 35 percent are uncertain or disbelief on the happening of CC. Indeed, Leviston et al. (2015) confirmed that three out of four Australians (77 percent) belief CC is happening. The results indicate that the public attitude towards CC in Australia is improving from time to time.

From the above two scenarios, Australians are the more aware of global CC threats than the United States adult generations which means that Australians strongly support CC actions to reduce GHGs emissions than the Americans. However, one person in ten people dismissive the happening of global CC in both countries which implies that they are strongly opposing CC actions to mitigate carbon emissions. Therefore, much more CC education advocate to be done on to bring the dismissive and doubtful people concerned and alarmed segments.

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Gaps and Uncertainty of Climate Science

Gaps in climate change attitude research

Despite, the above Six-Americans and Five-Australia audience segmentation approach different researchers have used various research approach such as Information-deficit model, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and Gateway Belief to understand the public attitude and adaption to CC (Van der Linden et al., 2014; Arbuckle et al., 2015; Cook and Overpeck, 2018). However, the process of developing, conducting and analysing qualitative or quantitative on CC are questioned (Ding et al., 2011; Huntley, 2019).

The attitude and behaviour studies on CC requires continuous long-term and whole audience engagement. However, ample CC attitude studies more specific in study period as public attitudes vary over time (Akerlof et al., 2010;; Reser et al., 2011; Leviston et al., 2011; van der Linden et al., 2015). Therefore, effective audience segmentation approaches, long-term and efficacy of public engagement research are required to address how people thinks, feels, and acts on the issue of global warming and to develop CC actions in order achieve a low GHGs future (Hine et al., 2014; van der Linden et al., 2015; Huntley, 2019).

Uncertainty of public trust in climate science

The reasons behind public disbelief on CC a major threat are due to lack of communication, trust and faith in climate science. Furthermore, an inevitable number of doubtful and dismissive audience segments which distrust climate scientists and information are strongly opposed for CC mitigation strategies and actions. This is more explained in many developed countries political election including Australia which dissonance what people thought and vote (Armstrong et al., 2018; Huntley, 2019). Thus, it is very essential to build climate science trust and convince the dismissive and doubtful cohort to shift to the highest belief in global warming (Goodwin and Dahlstrom, 2013; Huntley, 2019).

Implications of Climate Change Actions for Australia

Ensuring public engagement in climate action

Australia is the most vulnerable country to CC in the developed world. 77 percent Australian beliefs CC is happening, only 25 percent are fully engaged (alarmed) in CC action to reduce GHGs threat (Hine at al., 2014). However, the consequences of CC on record-breaking hot summer, bushfire, extreme drought and flooding in Australia is undeniable even for doubtful and dismissive cohort. Thus, understanding the scientific consensus around CC to build faith and attitude on CC is a key factor in moving uncertain segments toward supporting climate actions (Huntley, 2019).

Encouraging climate science research

A continuous long-term and whole society segmentation research approaches are very crucial to understand the public mindset on CC attitude, belief, risk perception and motivations. However, without proper funding and donations and genuine public participation and government support the expected results will not be real. Furthermore, Hine et al. (2013), Armstrong et al. (2018) and Huntley (2019) suggest that scientists and policymakers should actively focus on cooperation values rather than competitive values in climate science.

Conclusion

The global public attitude, belief, risk perception and motivation on CC and mitigation actions varies among countries, demography, geography and indigenous knowledge. While Australia is the most vulnerable country to climate change, an inevitable dismissive audience segments belief that climate change is not happening and strongly oppose the climate change mitigation action to archives low carbon future. Therefore, a comprehensive and continuous climate change educational advocacy is important to lift the uncertain audience segments to certain audience segments. Furthermore, climate scientists and commentators, and all audience segments responsibility to support and act CC action for current and future generation health and wellbeing.

References

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