Climatic Change

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 519–531 | Cite as

Perceptions of climate change: Linking local and global perceptions through a cultural knowledge approach

  • Beatrice CronaEmail author
  • Amber Wutich
  • Alexandra Brewis
  • Meredith Gartin


Understanding public perceptions of climate change is fundamental to both climate science and policy because it defines local and global socio-political contexts within which policy makers and scientists operate. To date, most studies addressing climate change perceptions have been place-based. While such research is informative, comparative studies across sites are important for building generalized theory around why and how people understand and interpret climate change and associated risks. This paper presents a cross-sectional study from six different country contexts to illustrate a novel comparative approach to unraveling the complexities of local vs global perceptions around climate change. We extract and compare ‘cultural knowledge’ regarding climate change using the theory of ‘culture as consensus’. To demonstrate the value of this approach, we examine cross-national data to see if people within specific and diverse places share ideas about global climate change. Findings show that although data was collected using ethnographically derived items collected through place-based methods we still find evidence of a shared cultural model of climate change which spans the diverse sites in the six countries. Moreover, there are specific signs of climate change which appear to be recognized cross-culturally. In addition, results show that being female and having a higher education are both likely to have a positive effect on global cultural competency of individuals. We discuss these result in the context of literature on environmental perceptions and propose that people with higher education are more likely to share common perceptions about climate change across cultures and tentatively suggest that we appear to see the emergence of a ‘global’, cross-cultural mental model around climate change and its potential impacts which in itself is linked to higher education.


Climate Change Cultural Model Ecuador Cultural Competency Competency Score 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Work was locally seeded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. SES-0345945 Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) and NSF grant number DEB-0423704 Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research,and ASU President’s Late Lessons from Early History initiative. ASU global health and anthropology undergraduate students assisted with field-based data collection. Input by Crona has been made possible by funding from The Swedish Research Council Formas, and by Mistra through a core grant to the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beatrice Crona
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amber Wutich
    • 2
  • Alexandra Brewis
    • 2
  • Meredith Gartin
    • 3
  1. 1.Stockholm Resilience CentreStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Urban Sustainability Research Coordinaton Network, Global Institute of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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