Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

College students worried about climate change hazards

Date:
October 3, 2013
Source:
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Summary:
Results of survey of University of Florida students gauging perceptions, level of fear re: climate change.

Survey respondents ranked highest worries about drinking water loss, beach loss and property damage from hurricanes. They were least concerned with land plant loss, aquatic plant loss, invasive plants and tourism declines.
Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones

College students are worried about climate change-related hazards, even if they're not worried about climate change, suggesting that the threat of climate change still seems theoretical to many, new University of Florida research shows.

Related Articles


A UF/IFAS study published online in September by the Journal of Environmental Management measures how worried students are about coastal calamities.

The study is a dissertation by former UF doctoral student Stuart Carlton, now a postdoctoral assistant at Purdue University. Carlton earned his doctorate in interdisciplinary ecology from the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment. Scientists agree on the existence of climate change, even though it remains a topic of serious debate among politicians and others, Carlton said.

"It's one of the main controversies of our time," Carlton said. "Climate change will likely have a dramatic and disproportionate effect on coastal regions -- including increased flooding, shoreline erosion and habitat change."

But, he said, abundant research shows almost half of Americans say they are "not very" or "not at all" worried about climate change.

So Carlton set out to find out what types of climate-related dangers people do worry about.

To that end, Carlton surveyed 762 UF undergraduate students online about their perceptions of potential coastal environmental risks. He received 558 responses. Respondents were asked to rate their level of concern about 17 coastal-environmental risks. Those risks included rising sea level, property loss and decimated fish populations. The risks were selected based on input from Florida Sea Grant, part of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Survey respondents ranked highest worries about drinking water loss, beach loss and property damage from hurricanes. They were least concerned with land plant loss, aquatic plant loss, invasive plants and tourism declines.

Carlton explains the apparent contradiction in the research -- that college students say they are worried about risks related to climate change while research overall shows that most adults say they are not overly worried about climate change -- by making a distinction between danger that feels real versus danger that seems more abstract.

"Hazards are real things," Carlton said. "Climate change is not something observable on a daily basis."

Risk perceptions, defined as the subjective judgments people make about the threat posed by a hazard, play an important role in policy-making. Understanding risk perceptions through surveys such as the one he conducted can be a key part of improving risk communication, Carlton writes.

Carlton took the following into account as factors influencing risk perception: age, gender, income, ethnicity, political affiliation, level of social trust, religion, environmental attitudes and proximity to the coast.

Environmental attitudes were the largest determining factor in risk perception. Some people, for instance, believe humans are responsible for environmental stewardship. That type of value played a role in how people perceived coastal risks, the study showed.

Those who identified themselves as Democrats said they were more concerned about how climate change would affect the environment, according to his research. Those who identified themselves as Republicans expressed more concern with how climate change would affect the economy, Carlton said.

Susan Jacobson, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at UF and the chairwoman for Carlton's dissertation committee, says Carlton's survey can improve how scientists talk about climate change.

"This suggests that people are concerned about physical, biological and economic risks that may be associated with climate change, and that helps us better communicate about risks," Jacobson said.

Matthew Williams, director of the UF Office of Sustainability and Energy Integration, said he's not surprised that college students, especially from UF, would recognize damage caused by hurricanes and other dangerous events. Many of them live on the coast or near it, he said.

But drawing a connection to climate change is tough, he said, noting that there's a growing body of research that shows the same 'disconnect' among the public at large. "It's not a dichotomy," Williams said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stuart J. Carlton, Susan K. Jacobson. Climate change and coastal environmental risk perceptions in Florida. Journal of Environmental Management, 2013; 130: 32 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.08.038

Cite This Page:

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "College students worried about climate change hazards." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003105700.htm>.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2013, October 3). College students worried about climate change hazards. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003105700.htm
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "College students worried about climate change hazards." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003105700.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

AP (Feb. 26, 2015) A new winter storm is stretching across the south, making travel treacherous throughout the region. (Feb. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) The freezing temperatures that have plagued much of the eastern U.S. haven&apos;t spared New York City. The waterways around the island of Manhattan are filled with ice. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia surveyed severe flood damage in the northern province of Pando, as people were evacuated from partially submerged houses by boat. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Satellite data shows the Amazon rainforest supports its lush flora with a little help from Sahara Desert dust. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins