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Understanding climate change communications should not require higher education

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This page was written by Wändi Bruine de Bruin

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Researcher Wändi Bruine de Bruin, discusses the importance of making climate change communication more accessible, empowering more people around the world to demand and take action.

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How much more likely people are to view climate change as a serious threat if they have post-secondary (50%) education, compared with those with primary education or less (32%).

Bridging the education gap: making climate change communication accessible

Climate scientists have been warning about climate change since at least the 1950s. Global public opinion initially did not reveal much awareness about climate change including in the 2007 Gallup World Poll. However, the 2019 World Risk Poll marked a big shift and showed that over two thirds of people around the world saw climate change as a threat. That figure remains similar in 2021, despite the pandemic and associated economic problems, which suggests that climate change remains front of mind for the majority of people worldwide.

The World Risk Poll shows that people who have experience with severe weather are more likely to see climate change as a severe threat. Around the world, it is increasingly evident that climate change is happening: heat waves, wildfires, and floods are becoming more severe and more common.

But it’s mostly people with higher education who recognise climate change is happening. The World Risk Poll shows that, worldwide, the likelihood of people viewing climate change as a serious threat to their country was much lower among those with primary education or less (32%) than among those with secondary (47%) or post-secondary (50%) education.

Why does education predict climate change concerns? Climate change is a complex scientific topic, which may be harder to understand for people who do not have much science education. But climate scientists and climate journalists often make climate change even harder to understand by using jargon such as adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development.

Climate change communications should be accessible for everyone.

 

My team at the University of California has been working with climate policy makers to describe climate change in a way that is more concrete and in everyday language. We have also created a quick guide to climate jargon for people who want to learn more about climate change and the associated terminology. Ultimately, we hope that these efforts help to empower people to act on climate change.