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Climate Research

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CR 11:75-84 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/cr011075

Public perceptions of global warming: United States and international perspectives

Richard J. Bord1,*, Ann Fisher2, Robert E. O'Connor3

1Department of Sociology, 2Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, and 3Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

ABSTRACT: National and international survey data on global warming are summarized in terms of levels of awareness, actual knowledge, degree of concern, perceived risk, and willingness to pay or sacrifice to mitigate or adapt to potential negative impacts. The data indicate the following: solid awareness of and support for general environmental goals; an awareness of and concern for global warming; a flawed understanding of global warming that is the result of an inappropriate application of a general pollution model; considerable perceived threat from global warming but less so than for most other issues; and a limited willingness to sacrifice to better cope with global warming. Although global warming generates concern around the globe, it is not a 'front-burner' issue. Concern tends to be highest in Canada, most of Europe and South America. Errors in assessing causes of global warming are global in nature. International data demonstrates considerable support for economic sacrifices to deal with environmental problems, including global warming. Our own data support but go beyond earlier data by implying that global warming is not a salient issue, and that people across the globe will support global climate change initiatives that do not levy unusual hardships; but they cannot be expected to voluntarily alter their lifestyles.

KEY WORDS: Attitudes · Global warming · Climate change

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