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.

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 April 20, 2014 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 April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. 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:
from the past week

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