Belief in climate change doesn’t always lead to action
Cornell researchers have set out to identify factors that may motivate Americans to mobilize for grassroots action on climate change. Local climate change consequences, such as beach erosion, motivate people more than distant one.
Americans are undergoing a significant shift in thinking about climate change, but rising public awareness of a warming climate has not translated into action, according to new survey research.
In the recent 2014 Empire State Poll, 82 percent of New Yorkers say they believe climate change is happening. Downstate New Yorkers are even more convinced – 86 percent say climate change is real. However, less than 1 percent of the 800 New York state residents polled think climate change is the most important issue facing the state, and less than 20 percent would be willing to take political action.
With support from the Atkinson Center’s Rapid Response Fund, a multidisciplinary team of Cornell researchers set out to identify factors that may motivate Americans to mobilize for grassroots action on climate change. Mobilizing could include voting, serving on boards, contributing money, attending marches or demonstrations, and other forms of political participation and activism.
The researchers led by Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources, supplied the Empire State Poll with 19 survey questions. The questions explored relationships among belief in climate change, the respondent’s location and personal experience of climate change effects and willingness to take action against future climate change threats. The annual poll is administered by the Survey Research Institute at Cornell.
“We conducted this research because we think it is vital to understand thresholds for taking action on climate change – essentially, what it would take for people to act politically for climate change,” said Allred. “Climate change is a defining issue of this century, and sustained civil society mobilization is needed to create meaningful political change that results in large-scale climate mitigation and adaptation.”
Investigators include Allison Chatrchyan, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA); Mike Hoffmann, CUAES and CICCA; Drew Margolin, communication; Katherine McComas; and Wolford, development sociology.