Carsey Institute: Americans' Knowledge of Polar Regions Up, But Not Their ConcernFebruary 08, 2012
DURHAM, N.H. - Americans' knowledge of facts about the polar regions of the globe has increased since 2006, but this increase in knowledge has not translated into more concern about changing polar environments, according to new research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
"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
Long-term global warming not driven naturally
By examining how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming, a study by scientists at Duke University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that global temperature does not rise or fall chaotically in the long run. Unless pushed by outside forces, temperature should remain stable.
Very large volcanic eruptions could lead to ice sheet instability
Massive volcanic eruptions could cause localised warming that might destabilise some of the world's biggest ice sheets, according to new research from Durham University.
Climate change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic
The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North.
New insights into the dynamics of past climate change
A new study of the relationship between ocean currents and climate change has found that they are tightly linked, and that changes in the polar regions can affect the ocean and climate on the opposite side of the world within one to two hundred years, far quicker than previously thought.
High-speed search methods to better estimate climate threats to biodiversity
Climate change is perhaps felt most acutely in the Arctic right now, but by the start of the next century, animal species in the Amazon basin region will be harder hit as the Earth warms.
Observed latitudinal variations in erosion as a function of glacier dynamics
Climate change is causing more than just warmer oceans and erratic weather. According to scientists, it also has the capacity to alter the shape of the planet.
Asteroids found to be the moon's main 'water supply'
Water reserves found on the moon are the result of asteroids acting as "delivery vehicles" and not of falling comets as was previously thought.
Ocean life triggers ice formation in clouds
Researchers have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.
NASA simulation indicates ancient flood volcanoes could have altered climate
In June, 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded, blasting millions of tons of ash and gas over 20 miles high - deep into the stratosphere, a stable layer of our atmosphere above most of the clouds and weather.
MAVEN results find Mars behaving like a rock star
If planets had personalities, Mars would be a rock star according to recent preliminary results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft.
More Polar Regions Current Events and Polar Regions News Articles