Climate Change Beliefs and the Connection to “Home”
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CitationFrederick, Allison. 2019. Climate Change Beliefs and the Connection to “Home”. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis environmental psychology study measured types of climate change beliefs among Colorado residents using online survey methods to determine if the psychological theories of positive place identity and rootedness to “home” influence either a belief in local climate change and/or the emotional response to beliefs of climate change experiences in Colorado.
The primary research question of this study was: How does the perceived threat of localized climate change affect a person’s emotional well-being and their willingness to accept the notion of local climate change? Three hypotheses were used to lend insight into this question. It was hypothesized that individuals with strong place attachment to a local area are less likely to believe they will be impacted by climate change in their local region. Additionally, individuals purporting a strong place attachment and belief in local climate change will feel pronounced emotional distress. Lastly, individuals with strong place attachment will express resistance to moving from their residential place due to local climate change threats if they have a positive place identity to their residential place.
There has been recent momentum to emphasize local climate change threats in climate science communication with the assumption people will be more motivated to protect their “backyard” as is often seen in “not in my back yard” NIMBY campaigns. I had reservations regarding this suggestion as other psychological phenomena suggests people have an “optimism bias” or express other forms of denial when confronted with personal threats. This study contributes to the discussion of best practices for climate change communication.
Residents of Colorado (N=105) were asked to participate in an online survey with 46 Likert-scale questions asking (1) to what degree living in Colorado met their needs; (2) how likely they were to move out of Colorado; (3) what their beliefs are regarding climate change, including whether they believe climate change is occurring in Colorado; and (4) if they hold a belief in local climate change, does that belief foster emotional distress, and would the participant consider moving from Colorado because of their belief in local climate change.
Unexpectedly, regression analysis did not support the hypotheses of this research. Insightfully, however, analysis indicated a strong, statistically significant relationship between belief in local climate change and rootedness (how attached a person is to a particular place) wherein 1.0 measured unit of belief in local climate change correlated with an increased, 1.096 unit of rootedness to Colorado (p<.001). The results of this study suggest an important area of future research for climate change mitigation and adaptation among “rooted” residents who already believe in local climate change. As an example, further studies on rootedness and local climate change belief may elicit a repeatable, climate change communication framework for improving outcomes for pro-environmental behavior, stewardship, and climate change mitigation.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004160