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Mapping and communicating climate risk perceptions at the sub-national level

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This page was written by Matto Mildenberger, Christin Palmstrom

A field showing the signs of a world with and without climate change.

Matto Mildenberger and Christin Palmstrom from the 2035 Intiative at the University of California Santa Barbara discuss how they will integrate World Risk Poll data on perceptions of climate change threat into an interactive data tool to develop the first global map of climate opinion.

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countries and over 2,000 sub-national regions included in the first ever global map of climate opinion.

What problem is your project aiming to address?

Scientists provide finely detailed maps of climate impacts. Economists model the local economic impacts of climate policies. However, advocates, media and policymakers have lacked comparable data on public climate risk perceptions. Our team has previously developed high-resolution spatial maps of climate opinion, including in Canada and the USA. These datasets process large public opinion datasets with cutting-edge statistical models to ‘downscale’ national data to local levels. Now, we are working on bridging the data gap for climate risk perception on a global scale. Understanding attitudes around climate change is important because it can influence policy decisions in those localities and show where support for climate policies could be implemented or where more targeted outreach may be needed.

How are you going to go about this?

We are developing the first ever global map of climate opinion at the sub-national level by using a model that describes climate risk perceptions in 163 countries and over 2,000 sub-national regions. We are developing this model by analysing data from over 80 cross-national surveys that included climate-related survey responses. After compiling the data, we have cleaned and standardised the results so that we can compare the responses across the different surveys and use the data to generate a global climate opinion model.

Using the model, we are also building an interactive web tool for public, media and policymaking stakeholders around the world to utilise. This will allow them to easily visualise global opinion around climate change and how different communities perceive climate risks. The tool will be released in at least 12 languages. We will also update our web tool annually each Autumn with the latest data through to 2030, incorporating new waves of the World Risk Poll, to keep supporting global risk communication and planning.

Who will this make safer, and how?

Climate change is a global threat and spurring policies to accelerate climate action, including mitigation and adaptation, will increase the safety of communities around the world. Our dataset and map will provide a crucial resource for international and regional policymakers to implement more informed climate policy and action. Our project will also provide greater public understanding of climate change, climate opinions, and support for policies to address climate change all over the world. It will provide tools for advocates to perform outreach and engagement on climate adaptation and policy.

Additionally, our dataset will be an invaluable resource for other researchers to utilise to better understand global climate opinion, including how it changes over time. By understanding climate risk perception on a global scale, we can use the information to make more informed policy decisions to increase community safety across the world.

How does the World Risk Poll data enable this project? What can you do with it that you couldn’t otherwise?

Before Lloyd’s Register Foundation collected and published the World Risk Poll, a sub-national climate risk perception model was not feasible.


Statistical models of the sort we are using require input datasets which ask the same question in multiple countries as well as datasets which ask the same question across multiple time periods. Much of the most appropriate data that meets these criteria were collected between 2006 and 2012, but we have good reason to believe that the spatial distribution of climate risk perceptions has changed since then.

The two waves of the World Risk Poll that have already been published provide a scaffolding that not only allows current estimation of sub-national risk perceptions, but also unlocks our model’s ability to bring in historic data from many other cross-national studies to improve model accuracy. In short, the World Risk Poll is the ‘anchor’ of this project; our model would not work without the unique and comprehensive public opinion data provided by the World Risk Poll.

Who do you want to talk to, to enhance the impact of this project?

An important part of our project is engaging with stakeholders, including policymakers, advocates, and the media, so that they can effectively utilize our dataset and climate map. We want our tool to become a living dataset and value input on how to improve, change, or make the tool more relevant over time. If you are interested in learning more, in providing early feedback on our tool and/or data, or in discussing how we can partner on disseminating or improving our data, please reach out to Christin Palmstrom using the email below. We are keen to engage with everyone, from national NGOs to advocates working to address the climate needs of local communities.

To find out more about this project, get in touch with the project team at [email protected].