Climatic Change

, Volume 150, Issue 3–4, pp 403–416 | Cite as

A new, valid measure of climate change understanding: associations with risk perception

  • Julie C. LibarkinEmail author
  • Anne U. Gold
  • Sara E. Harris
  • Karen S. McNeal
  • Ryan P. Bowles


The relationship between climate change understanding and other variables, including risk perception, beliefs, and worldviews, is an important consideration as we work to increase public attention to climate change. Despite significant effort to develop rigorous mechanisms for measuring affective variables, measurement of climate change understanding is often relegated to unvalidated questions or question sets. To remedy this situation, we constructed and analyzed a climate change concept inventory using a suite of validity and reliability steps, including Rasch analysis. The resultant 21-item test has a high degree of validity and reliability for measuring understanding about basic climate change processes. Inventory scores along with other variables were included in a model of climate change risk perception, providing both concurrent validity for the test and new insight into the importance of understanding, worldview, and values on risk perception. We find that environmental beliefs and cultural cognition worldview play a larger role in predicting an individual’s risk perception than knowledge. Implications for addressing climate change are considered.



We are grateful to everyone who participated in this research, as well as members of the Geocognition Research Lab for a review of this manuscript.

Funding information

This work was partially supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DUE-1504659 to Libarkin and Bowles.

Supplementary material

10584_2018_2279_MOESM1_ESM.docx (452 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 451 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geocognition Research Lab, 207 Natural ScienceMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of Colorado-BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Department of GeosciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  5. 5.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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