, Volume 77, Issue 1-2, pp 73-95
Date: 03 Aug 2006

Public Views on Climate Change: European and USA Perspectives

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Abstract

If uncontrolled, human influences on the climate system may generate changes that will endanger various aspects of life on Earth. The precise implications of the scientific claims about climate change, and the extent to which they pose dangers to various populations, are becoming intensely debated at many levels in relation to policy. How `danger' is interpreted will ultimately affect which actions are taken. In this paper, we examine how climate change is conceptualised by publics in Europe and in the USA. Although there is widespread concern about climate change, it is of secondary importance in comparison to other issues in people's daily lives. Most individuals relate to climate change through personal experience, knowledge, the balance of benefits and costs, and trust in other societal actors. We analyse these factors through findings from various surveys and studies, which highlight both the distinctiveness and some shared perspectives at a generalised level. We reflect upon these in relation to trust and responsibility for climate change action, and risk communication, supporting the call for discourses about climate change to also be situated in people's locality, as a means of increasing its saliency.