Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 269–278 | Cite as

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

  • Eric JamelskeEmail author
  • James Barrett
  • James Boulter


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.


Climate change Global warming Public opinion Public policy China United States 



We would like to thank the many students and professors at all the universities in China and the US that participated in our surveys. We also gratefully acknowledge (list students) for their excellent work as research assistants on this project and funding from (university name) Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Lastly, we thank participants at the Culture, Politics, and Climate Change Conference in Boulder, CO for their useful comments.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireEau ClaireUSA
  2. 2.Economics DepartmentSacramento City CollegeSacramentoUSA
  3. 3.Chemistry DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireEau ClaireUSA

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