Risk Perceptions, General Environmental Beliefs, and Willingness to Address Climate Change

Abstract

The research reported here examines the relationship between risk perceptions and willingness to address climate change. The data are a national sample of 1225 mail surveys that include measures of risk perceptions and knowledge tied to climate change, support for voluntary and government actions to address the problem, general environmental beliefs, and demographic variables. Risk perceptions matter in predicting behavioral intentions. Risk perceptions are not a surrogate for general environmental beliefs, but have their own power to account for behavioral intentions. There are four secondary conclusions. First, behavioral intentions regarding climate change are complex and intriguing. People are neither “nonbelievers” who will take no initiatives themselves and oppose all government efforts, nor are they “believers” who promise both to make personal efforts and to vote for every government proposal that promises to address climate change. Second, there are separate demographic sources for voluntary actions compared with voting intentions. Third, recognizing the causes of global warming is a powerful predictor of behavioral intentions independent from believing that climate change will happen and have bad consequences. Finally, the success of the risk perception variables to account for behavioral intentions should encourage greater attention to risk perceptions as independent variables. Risk perceptions and knowledge, however, share the stage with general environmental beliefs and demographic characteristics. Although related, risk perceptions, knowledge, and general environmental beliefs are somewhat independent predictors of behavioral intentions.

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O'Connor, R.E., Bord, R.J. & Fisher, A. Risk Perceptions, General Environmental Beliefs, and Willingness to Address Climate Change. Risk Anal 19, 461–471 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007004813446

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  • Risk perceptions
  • climate change
  • knowledge
  • environmental beliefs