Attitudes to climate change depend on people's sense of belonging to the planet

December 15, 2014

New research led by the University of Exeter has found that people who have a stronger sense of place at the global than the national level are more likely to accept that climate change is caused by human activities. This is the first time that acceptance of human causes of climate change has been shown to be linked to people's sense of place at the global level. The findings have significant implications both for climate change communications and for our understanding of place and identities.

The study 'My country or my planet? Exploring the influence of multiple place attachments and ideological beliefs upon climate change attitudes and opinions' found that individuals with stronger global than national attachments were more likely to perceive climate change as an opportunity rather than a threat - for example perceiving positive economic impacts to arise from climate change responses, and the potential to build a stronger sense of community worldwide. These individuals were more likely to be female, younger, and self-identify as having no religion, to be more likely to vote Green, and to be characterised by significantly lower levels of right wing authoritarian and social dominance beliefs.

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright from Geography at the University of Exeter said: "The results of this study suggest that local place attachments are not strongly linked to climate change beliefs. Rather, it is the interplay between national and global levels that is significant. Those with stronger global than national sense of place are more likely to accept that climate change is caused by human actions and could be an opportunity for society, to bring people together, not just a threat to the economy."

People generally view a sense of place in purely local terms - the area near to where they live. The study broadens this perception in important ways to encompass national and global forms of belonging - known as place attachments and identities.

The research was conducted in Australia, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), using a survey method with a nationally representative sample.

Professor Devine-Wright said "Given the study was conducted in Australia, we need to replicate the study in other national contexts, for example in the UK or US, to see whether similar results will be found".

The study is published in the journal Global Environmental Change:
For further information:

Jo Bowler
University of Exeter
Press Office
+44 (0)1392 722062 or +44(0)7827 309 332

About the University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 19,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table, 10th in The Complete University Guide and 12th in the Guardian University Guide 2014. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University's research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20. Exeter was The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13.

The University has invested strategically to deliver more than £350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses in the last few years; including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, together with world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute. There are plans for another £330 million of investment between now and 2016.

University of Exeter

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