From Europe to Fiji: How National Identity Shapes Perception of Climate Change
This November, I had the extraordinary privilege to attend COP 23 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a.k.a the UN Climate Change Negotiations in Bonn, Germany as a representative of Emory University.
This unbelievable event draws distinguished diplomats, politicians, activists, and interested students, like myself, from around the world. Everyone knows (I hope.) what the world accomplished in 2015 when countries gathered in Paris to create the Paris Agreement—an unprecedented feat of collaboration from 197 countries with the common objective of keeping warming below 2°C (re: small island nations under water, extreme weather events, you get the picture, it’s not pretty).
Following the initial creation of the Paris Agreement, the talks have shifted to focus on the implementation of this ambitious agenda. My pass enabled me to access the Climate Action zone— an exhibition space for individuals and organizations dedicated to innovative solutions for climate change. They promoted solutions ranging from mitigation and adaptation to technology and media efforts.
I learned about work that reaches across sectors (public, private, nonprofit) and levels (national, state, city, local) as well as between countries and communities. But I made it a priority to place a special focus on individuals. Individuals across the world who are taking action. Individuals who are STILL IN.
In the United States, the We are Still In movement, unites subnational efforts by cities, universities, companies, and communities to take action. This campaign demonstrates the the potential for outsize impact of local stakeholders. Yet, it’s message is largely confined to the unique circumstance of federal inaction in the United States.
As a result, I partnered with Chasing Coral to use their We are Still In photo campaign as an avenue to highlight diverse and global perspectives on the We are Still In movement at COP 23 in Bonn. I asked people to write why they are “still in” on a sheet of paper and photographed them holding their handwritten sign. The conversations I had with these people gave me further insight into how global perspectives on climate action differ.
As I wandered through the conference hall (a series of exhibitions for each country on display), I wondered how national identity influences an individual’s perception of climate change. How do these individuals see climate change and what are their motivations to take action?
The following series of 5 blog posts will focus on how climate perception is shaped by national circumstance. Naturally, a sampling bias arises in interviews, as those attending the COP are likely people who:
- believe in climate change.
- recognize the urgency of the issue.
- be mobilized to make a difference.
I predicted that trend would arise regarding their individual motivations for action as a product of their national identities. From discussions with these impressive people, I attempt to compare their climate perceptions and assess how national identities impact those perceptions. My conclusions are significantly supplemented by outside research on climate perceptions as well as information collected at side events at the conference.
I invite you to learn from my experience at COP 23!
Learn about global perspectives on the urgency of climate action.
Explore multimedia components that allow you to see the face and hear the voices of these amazing activists.
These stories make a compelling argument for why the United States government and concerned or disengaged Americans must take a stand and join as we, as a united human family fight the effects of climate change.
I hope what you find here will inspire you to take action.