, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 269-278
Date: 14 Jul 2013

Comparing climate change awareness, perceptions, and beliefs of college students in the United States and China

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Abstract

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus, climate change is a divisive national and international policy issue. There is still much public debate and uncertainty regarding the reality of climate change and the degree to which human activities are responsible. In terms of climate change issues, the US and China are of particular interest because they are disproportionately responsible for the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Using the data from a survey of US and Chinese college students, this paper compares climate change public opinion among young adults in these two countries. We found that US students much less likely to believe anthropogenic climate change is happening compared to Chinese students. US students were also less convinced of the consensus among climate scientists regarding human-induced climate change. In addition, US students rated the economy higher than the environment as a government priority, whereas Chinese students rated the economy and environment as equally important. In terms of familiarity with the current policy debate, Chinese students were more familiar with both national and international climate change policies. Although Chinese students favor joining an international agreement to address climate change more than US students, on average, there was a relatively strong support among students in both countries for joining such an agreement. However, within the US, there are significant differences in climate change public opinion between those with conservative and liberal political ideologies for almost every variable studied. These results are interesting and could have meaningful implications for both national and international climate change policies in the future.