Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Climate change: do we have a clue?

by Lisa Mol

ScienceDaily reported a few days ago that Americans are apparently rather clueless when it comes to climate change. Only 57 percent know what the greenhouse effect is, only 45 percent of Americans understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface, and just 50 percent understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities.This lack of understanding can be a real hurdle when it comes to implementing climate change policies and getting people to change their habits in order to cut back on emissions. Moser (2010) also comments on this problem, showing the complexities of public awareness, listing a variety of factors why people are not aware enough (“invisibility of causes, distant impacts, lack of immediacy and direct experience of the impacts, lack of gratification for taking mitigative actions, disbelief in human’s global influence, complexity and uncertainty, inadequate signals indicating the need for change, perceptual limits and self-interest”)

But maybe there is a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve having everyone read the latest IPCC reports in great detail. Canada’s The Globe and Mail, reported an interesting new project, called ‘Old Weather‘, which is a collaboration between, amongst others, the Citizens Science Alliance and Oxford University. The team is currently looking for volunteers to help them transcribe hundreds of records of weather observations from WWI navy vessels logs. They hope that with this new information they can map early 20th century weather patterns. Philip Brohan explains: “We’re simply attempting to gather more information about historical weather variability, to improve our understanding of all forms of weather variability in the past and so improve our ability to predict weather and climate in the future.”

So how about some community involvement to increase our understanding of climate change? Projects such as these provide a new scope for getting the public involved and increasing our understanding of climate change. I’ll leave you to think about that while I take a break to do some transcribing.

Geographical work at the boundaries of climate change Mike Hulme, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Volume 33, Issue 1, pages 5–11, January 2008

Yale University (2010, October 14). Large gaps found in public understanding of climate change. ScienceDaily.

Moser, S. C. (2010), Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1: 31–53. doi: 10.1002/wcc.11

Globe and Mail (12 Oct 2010), Climate researchers to study WW1 warship voyages

Old Weather project website

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