From November 6-17, representatives from 197 countries gathered in Bonn, Germany to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement- a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep warming below 2°C. I was lucky to attend this important conference.
As an American, I see climate change presented as a debate…divided…two-sided…polarized..no opportunities to surmount the divide. But the rhetoric surrounding American climate politics does not match the perception climate change in most other countries.
In Europe, climate change is not seen as a partisan issue. People are aware of the threat and most acknowledge the urgency of addressing it with policy responses.
An analysis co-authored by Anthony Lieserowitz of Yale’s Program on Climate Communication found that about 40 percent of adults worldwide have never heard of climate change. This rises to more than 65 percent in some developing countries, like Egypt, Bangladesh, and India. In contrast, 90% of the public is aware in North America, Europe, and Japan, but sometimes they still don’t take personal action.
I knew that the understanding of climate change and perception of risk differs across cultures and countries. So, while I was in Bonn, I took the opportunity to analyze how national identity affects the perception of climate change and how orientation toward climate action might vary between countries.
I sought answers to the following questions:
- How does the average person in the country perceive climate change?
- What influences citizens to take climate action?
- What are some examples of innovative local solutions?
The exploration that followed provided unique insight into the global experience of climate change.
In developing nations (see: Africa, Pacific Islands, India, Latin America), citizens feel the effects of climate change in their daily lives, whether or not they are aware of the phenomenon of climate change. The level of personal experience with climate change affects people’s motivation to take action.
Ultimately, I found that media, education level, personal experience/local effects, and level of climate literacy affect peoples’ perceptions of climate change as well as their support for climate action.
The narrative of global climate activists highlighted by my blogs sounds a compelling call to action for disengaged or concerned Americans who are doing nothing to reduce the effects of climate change. In the face of federal inaction, it is more crucial than ever to take a stand and promote climate solutions in your own community.