Is public awareness and perceived threat of climate change associated with governmental mitigation targets?
Drummond, A and Hall, LC and Sauer, JD and Palmer, MA, Is public awareness and perceived threat of climate change associated with governmental mitigation targets?, Climatic Change, 149, (2) pp. 159-171. ISSN 0165-0009 (2018) [Refereed Article]
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Social scientists and science communicators are concerned about the apparent discrepancy between the scientific consensus on climate change (Anderegg et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:12107–12109, 2010; Doran and Zimmerman EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 90:22–3, 2009) and the general public’s views (Knight Environ Sociol 2:101–113, 2016; Lee et al. Nat Clim Chang 5:1014–1020, 2015). It is reasoned that increased public awareness and perceived threat of climate change may pressure governments to enact policy to counteract climate change (e.g. setting stringent carbon emissions targets). Despite a logical link between public awareness and government-set emissions targets, this relationship remains untested. We examined the relationship between public awareness about and perceived threat of climate change and governmental emissions targets across 71 countries and 1 region. We found a positive association between the proportions of a country’s population that are aware of climate change and the unconditional emissions reduction targets set by that country in the Paris Agreement (Rogelj et al. Nature 534:631–639, 2016). However, the proportion of people in a country who perceive climate change as a personal threat was not associated with higher emissions reduction targets. Our results suggest that public awareness may be an important part of garnering the public support required for policies designed to mitigate climate change to succeed.