Carsey Institute: Americans' Knowledge of Polar Regions Up, But Not Their ConcernFebruary 08, 2012
"People's knowledge of polar regions and issues improved from 2006 to 2010, consistent with hopes that the International Polar Year in 2007 would boost public awareness. Unfortunately, we did not see a companion increase in concern about the environmental changes in these regions, due, in part, to ideological and political divisions," said Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology at UNH and a senior fellow at the Carsey Institute.
Carsey Institute researchers, with support from the National Science Foundation, conducted the first comparative analysis of queries about the polar regions, which were included on the General Social Survey in 2006 and 2010. The polar questions covered topics such as climate change, melting ice, rising sea levels, and human or ecological impacts from environmental change. The surveys formed bookends to the International Polar Year in 2007-2008, which focused on scientific research along with outreach and education efforts to raise awareness of polar science.
The researchers found that the public's knowledge about the north and south polar regions showed modest gains between 2006 and 2010. The average "polar knowledge score" improved from 53 to 59 percent.
The surveys also carried an 11-question "science literacy" quiz, testing background knowledge about science. Science literacy did not improve from 2006 to 2010, but people with higher science literacy tend to care more about polar environmental change. More scientifically literate respondents also are more likely to favor reserving the Antarctic for science, rather than opening it to commercial development.
Unlike polar knowledge, concern about climate change in the polar regions showed no up or down trend, and there were no changes in support for reserving the Antarctic for science. However, the researchers found there has been an increase in political disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on climate-related questions.
"Among the environment-related issues, all but reserving Antarctica for science show increasing political polarization - and even support for reserving the Antarctic divides along party lines. Polar issues, like many other topics in science, increasingly are viewed by the public through politically tinted glasses," Hamilton said.
The complete Carsey Institute report about this research is available at http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/CarseySearch/search.php?id=183. The research was conducted by Hamilton, Matthew Cutler, graduate student in sociology, and Andrew Schaefer, graduate student in sociology and a research assistant at the Carsey Institute.
The Carsey Institute conducts policy research on vulnerable children, youth, and families and on sustainable community development. The institute gives policy makers and practitioners the timely, independent resources they need to effect change in their communities. For more information about the Carsey Institute, go to www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
University of New Hampshire
Related Polar Regions Current Events and Polar Regions News Articles
On a tropical island, fossils reveal the past -- and possible future -- of polar ice
The balmy islands of Seychelles couldn't feel farther from Antarctica, but their fossil corals could reveal much about the fate of polar ice sheets.
Cool deep-water protects coral reefs against heat stress
1991, 1995, 2003, 2010 - again and again, increased water temperatures lead to bleaching with fatal consequences for stony corals in the Andaman Sea. These animals are highly susceptible to changes in water temperatures.
NASA's IMAGE and Cluster Missions Reveal Origin of Theta Auroras
Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the sun's effect on Earth, but many aspects of these spectacular displays are still poorly understood.
Underwater robot sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice
The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot.
Solar explosions inside a computer
Strong solar flares can bring down communications and power grids on Earth. By demonstrating how these gigantic eruptions are caused, ETH physicists are laying the foundations for future predictions.
Waterloo makes public most complete Antarctic map for climate research
The University of Waterloo has unveiled a new satellite image of Antarctica, and the imagery will help scientists all over the world gain new insight into the effects of climate change.
Certain Arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they release
New research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), counters a widely-held scientific view that thawing permafrost uniformly accelerates atmospheric warming, indicating instead that certain Arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they emit into the atmosphere.
Antarctic ice sheet is result of CO2 decrease, not continental breakup
Climate modelers from the University of New Hampshire have shown that the most likely explanation for the initiation of Antarctic glaciation during a major climate shift 34 million years ago was decreased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
Synchronization of North Atlantic, North Pacific preceded abrupt warming, end of ice age
Scientists have long been concerned that global warming may push Earth's climate system across a "tipping point," where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible -- a hotly debated scenario with an unclear picture of what this point of no return may look like.
The simpler, the more heat-resistant - scientists uncover the key to adaptation limits of ocean dwellers
The simpler a marine organism is structured, the better it is suited for survival during climate change.
More Polar Regions Current Events and Polar Regions News Articles