Public risk perceptions, understandings, and responses to climate change and natural disasters in Australia and Great Britain: Interim report

Joseph P Reser, Nick Pidgeon, Alexa Spence, Graham Bradley, A. Ian Glendon and Michelle Ellul

This interim report provides an initial look at the findings from national surveys conducted in Australia and Great Britain examining public risk perceptions, understandings and responses to the threat and impacts of climate change [see also the factsheet/final report/follow up study]. This interim report addresses common findings relating to those two interlinked surveys, as well as information on the Australia-specific findings. The Australian survey was undertaken between 6 June-6 July 2010, with almost 3100 respondents from a geographically and demographically stratified national sample. The British survey was conducted 6 January-26 March 2010, with a representative quota sample of close to 1800 respondents from England, Scotland and Wales. The collaborative study revealed a number of particularly stiking findings. Despite dramatic differences in geographic regions, climate, climate change exposure, and recent histories of extreme weather events, the findings across most risk perception and concern domains were remarkably similar for Australia and Great Britain. Public concern levels with respect to the threat and perceived impacts of climate change were very high. Australian respondents viewed climate change as a more immediate, proximal, and certain threat to their local region and nation, than was the case for British respondents, for whom the problem was perceived to be more distant, uncertain, and less familiar in terms of anticipated consequences. As with the findings from many overseas surveys, a distinctive minority of Australian respondents (approximately 5.8%) could be characterised as being disbelievers or strong sceptics with respect to the reality of current climate change and/or the causal role of human activities and environmental impacts; these strong views disproportionately influenced overall survey findings. The comparable figure for British respondents who could be characterised as being disbelievers or strong sceptics was 5.1%.

Resource Type: 
Research report
Australia Wide

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