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National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Griffith Climate Change Response Program Behavioural Basis of Health School of Applied Psychology,

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Presentation on theme: "National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Griffith Climate Change Response Program Behavioural Basis of Health School of Applied Psychology,"— Presentation transcript:

1 National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Griffith Climate Change Response Program Behavioural Basis of Health School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University Encountering climate change: Is seeing believing? Griffith Climate Change Public Seminar Series Thursday, 31 st January EcoCentre, Nathan Campus, Griffith University Speaker: Joseph Reser Panelists: Donald Hine and Elizabeth Bragg

2 Current program focus and research fronts 1.The social representation of climate change and natural disasters 2. Public risk perceptions, understandings, and responses to climate change and natural disasters with particular focus on psychological adaptation processes 3. Psychological and social (psychosocial) environmental impacts of the threats of climate change and natural disasters 4. Measuring and monitoring important psychological and social changes in the human landscape in response to the threat and unfolding impacts of climate change 5. The establishment of a database, standardised measures and protocols, and a research monitoring program to document these changes and impacting processes


4 Social science based Collaborative, cross-national All researchers were psychologists Objectives Psychological parameters, processes, & scales Independent sample 2010, n = 3096 Independent sample 2011, n = 4347

5 Australian population distribution and survey sampling centres

6 Headline findings In 2011, 74% of Australian respondents personally thought that climate change was occurring, with 69% ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ certain that this was happening, 50% judged it is already happening in Australia. 69% of respondents either ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘tended to agree’ with the statement, “I am certain that climate change is really happening”. 87% of respondents believed that human activities were playing a causal role in climate change. 45% of respondents reported having had direct personal experience of an environmental change or event likely due to climate change. 42% reported it being ‘a serious problem right now’.

7 64% reported being ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ concerned about climate change. 43% reported that climate change was an ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ important issue to them personally Approximately 20% of respondents reported feeling, at times, appreciable distress at the prospects and implications of climate change. Well over one half of respondents (61%) reported being prepared to greatly reduce their energy use to tackle climate change (61%) and many are psychologically adapting to the threat of climate change and changing their behaviours and lifestyle with respect to reducing their own carbon footprint.

8 Direct experience and perceptions relating to perceived climate changes impacts in one’s local area (2010) Question: Have you experienced any noteworthy changes or events in your local natural environment over the past ten years which you think might be due to climate change? Results: 35.7% agreed that they had experienced noteworthy changes or events in their local natural environment due to climatic changes. 24.5% of respondents had directly experienced environmental changes and events taking place elsewhere in Australia or the world. 45% of respondents reported such direct experiences. Those who reported having such encounters were very different to those who had not had such experiences, i.e., they evidenced very different scores on almost all core Psychological variables from those without such experience.

9 What are these changes and events? (2010) Whilst Australia has always been a country of extremes in regard to climate I think there has been an increase in extreme weather conditions over the past several years - more wild weather and prolonged severe drought than I can recall from my earlier years (Sydney, metro, NSW). Last year my house was inundated with a flood, which happens only rarely, however we have had five warnings of floods since then, as the river system is built up with debris from the impact of people building around it - also more topsoil came down due to degradation from new forms of farming (Port Macquarie, NSW). There are a lot more trees dying. / We are unable to water gardens consistently due to water restrictions. / The local creeks don't flow for long even after heavy rain. / In my backyard, the ground is beginning to open up exposing large cracks...due mainly to drought like conditions and no moisture in the soil (Adelaide, metro, SA).

10 Is the perceived nexus between climate change and extreme weather events so surprising?

11 More recent headline findings Did climate change cause this storm? Out Summer of Truth Climate change panel warns of severe storms, droughts and heatwaves on global scale Scientists attribute extreme weather to man-made climate change The wet gets wetter, the dry dryer, thanks to climate change Crazy weather shows impact of global warming The name of the hurricane is climate change Extreme conditions: What’s happening to our weather

12 Climate change and natural disasters Q51. Overall, how much do you think climate change is influencing the frequency and intensity of weather events like storms and droughts?

13 A number of interesting questions arise: Does prior direct experience with natural disasters influence belief or acceptance of climate change? Does perceived direct experience with an environmental event or change associated with climate change influence belief or acceptance of climate change? Does this depend upon the nature of that experience and encounter? – and the individual? And what about virtual exposure and experience?

14 Summer of Disasters 2010/2011

15 Direct experience with disasters comparison (2010)

16 Number of times respondents experienced a natural disaster event based on the past 12 months (2011) CycloneBushfireDroughtFloodOther Freq% % % % % Experienced the event on one occasion 2936.71483.42505.775217.3771.8 Experienced the event twice 741.728.621.51583.623.5 Experienced the event three times Experienced the event four times 4.096.10-9.27 Experienced the event five times or more

17 Personally significant extreme weather or natural disaster situations (2011) Participants were asked several questions based on the most personally significant extreme weather or natural disaster situation that they had experienced. Participants were first asked what the event or situation was (open- ended response option) (n = 2472). A few examples of the type of responses given: Cyclone Yasi Brisbane floods Bushfires in East Gippsland Storm/Cyclone/Super Cell at the Gap Canberra bushfires The flash floods in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley in January 2011 Black Saturday bushfires Drought, the dam levels in South East Queensland dropped to a very low level. Then we had the floods

18 Respondents were then asked to indicate when this event took place Frequency% Happened in the past 12 months85245 Happened 1 to 10 years ago67836 Happened 11 to 20 years ago1669 Happened more than 20 years ago19610 Total1892

19 Impact of events (2011) ResponseFrequency% Was a member of your family, or someone close to you, physically impacted by the disaster (e.g., physically injured, trapped, cut-off from others for a period of time? Yes 67935.8 No 121964.2 Were you physically injured in the disaster? Yes 291.5 No 187198.5 Did you need financial assistance from others because of hardships caused by the disaster? Yes 30716.2 No 159083.8 Were you involved in community recovery after the disaster (e.g., volunteer at an emergency shelter, clean-up efforts, providing support, emergency worker)? Yes 67635.6 No 122464.4 Was your home damaged in the disaster? Yes 40921.5 No 149278.5 Did you at any point think that you were going to die? Yes 20210.6 No 169689.4

20 Climate change variables in relation to direct experience with a natural disaster warning or disaster impact situation (2010) RangeYesNod N11571939 Objective knowledge-7-102.82.6 Belief in climate change4-2015.815.9 Climate change concern7-3223.323.4 Risk perception5-3019.018.9 Distress7-4222.221.7 Self-efficacy5-2818.518.3 Personal responsibility4-2012.7 Adaptation8-4829.8***28.0.22 Behaviour0-156.6**6.3.12 Note: Asterisks are placed to the right of the higher group mean. Differences between means are expressed as: **p <.01. ***p <.001.

21 Relationships between nature and extent of prior disaster experience with other climate change variables (2010) 12345678910 1. Prior disaster exp.07*.12**.19**.16**.14**.13**.20**.15**.24** 2. Belief in CC.82**.60**.62**.60**.61**.59**.34**.38** 3. CC concern.73**.78**.73**.76**.73**.44**.46** 4. Risk appraisal.71**.59**.57**.64**.37**.45** 5. Distress.66**.68**.78**.42** 6. Self-efficacy.79**.69**.49**.38** 7. Responsibility.69**.48**.36** 8. Adaptation.53**.46** 9. Behaviour.26** 10. Residential exposure

22 Climate change variables in relation to direct experience with climate change impacts either in Australia or overseas (2010) RangeYesNod N19361702 Objective knowledge -7-103.7***1.9.64 Belief in climate change 4-2017.8***14.4.91 Climate change concern 7-3226.5***20.8.98 Risk perception 5-3021.5***16.9.86 Distress 7-4225.5***19.0.86 Self-efficacy 5-2820.4***16.8.76 Personal responsibility 4-2014.1***11.6.76 Adaptation 8-4832.9***25.2.99 Behaviour 0-157.3***5.7.55 Note: Asterisks are placed to the right of highest group mean. Differences between means are expressed as: **p <.01. ***p <.001.


24 Theoretical perspectives/explanations Direct experience, prior experience Experiential learning, environmental education Risk perception and appraisal Sense making, causal attributions Confirmation seeking, motivated reasoning Uncertainty reduction, resolution Actual/virtual exposure and experience cross -validation Transformative encounter/experience

25 Direct experience with climate change, 2011. 45% of respondents reported having a direct encounter with changes in the natural environment which they thought might be due to climate change in 2011, or describing such an experience and encounter. Respondents were asked to provide additional information about this experience: What the environmental change was, and why it held significance or meaning? The thoughts and/or feelings they had at the time they experienced the event

26 Response categoriesFrequency% Natural disasters (e.g., floods, drought, bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes) 25835.4 Seasonal changes (e.g., changing weather patterns, colder, hotter, humidity) 22030.2 Extreme weather (e.g., heatwaves, storms, hailstones, dust storms) 8611.8 Environmental changes (e.g., flora, fauna, erosion, degradation) 608.2 Water scarcity527.1 Increased rainfall253.4 Sea level rise7.9 Instability/unpredictability6.8 Ice melt, loss of snow5.7 Increased pollution4.5 Volcanic eruptions4.5 More rapid change2.3 If you have experienced any environmental change or event over the past few years that has made a strong impression on you, can you tell us what this was, and why it was of particular meaning for you?

27 Response categoriesFrequency% Concern, worry10220.0 Sad6512.7 Pessimism, helpless, hopelessness499.6 Shock, upset, horrified418.0 Scared, fear367.0 Awe, dread, strange326.3 Wanting to do something295.7 Realisation244.7 Uncertainty234.5 Frustration142.7 Loss142.7 Distress142.7 Anger, annoyed142.7 Indifferent132.5 Empathy122.3 Due to natural cycles91.7 Adaptation61.2 Vulnerability4.8 Disbelief3.6 Resignation3.6 Aware3.6 Can you briefly tell us what you thoughts and or feelings you had at the time you saw or experienced this particular environmental change or event?

28 Direct quotes The increase in the number of severe weather occurrences, such as the bushfires, cyclones and floods in Australia, flooding in Pakistan and other Asian regions, and tornadoes in the US have made me realise that these are not isolated events and are connected. I have not been affected directly from these, but seeing the images on television and in print does cause me concern about human impact on the planet. There's also the indirect impact of higher food prices. Sadness, distress, and a yearning to be able to put it all right (Female, Sydney metro, 35 years). I am from the country, seeing the severity of the droughts and the effect that they have on the land, the farmers and communities is heartbreaking. I now live in the city but still have ties to the country, but in the city Find it overwhelming the amounts of litter and pollution and knowing that a large percentage of our waste is going into landfill everyday. I find all of these issues stressful. My family all live on the land and have done so for generations, so i know personally how heartbreaking it is for them and myself seeing the devastating effects of climate change. Not being able to plant crops to due to lack of water and having to scrape together enough money to feed and water stock only to lose them because it is never enough (Female, rural NSW, 47 years).

29 The cyclone in Queensland in January. The speed and ferocity of the destruction with such little warning was particularly sobering. Horror, fear, sadness, need for action (Male, Melbourne metro, 23 years) The nature of the soil has changed significantly in my local area... as a kid in a Australia when we used to take holidays at the beach we used to get excited the closer we would get as when we stopped for breaks we could see the soil getting sandier. Were I live now (for the past 30 years) I have noticed the soil change to be more like "close to the beach" soil. I do live relatively close to the beach, but the soil change is significant to me. Soil which used to be black and rich is now sandy and thin Over the past few years, like when the drought broke here in Feb 2010, the soil reverted back to it's normal state for a few weeks... then it dried out again. I thought that scientists who were warning us about global warming were right and I felt that I had direct evidence of it right in front of me (Male, Canberra, 55 years). Water scarcity Feel sad and responsible for it (Male, Victoria – rural, 51 years)

30 So what do we make of all this? Is the answer found in the nature of this encounter and experience, and/or does it relate to the nature and self-selection of those individuals interpreting and reporting such experiences? Is seeing believing or is believing seeing?

31 Are encounters with climate change a matter of seeing is believing, or believing is seeing - or indeed both, with these processes occurring actually and virtually? It appears to be an interactive and cross-validating process involving both, But also more than both for many people, who appear to be experiencing genuinely transformative encounters with directly experienced and profoundly significant events and changes in their known natural environment, With this encounter then catalysing not only prior virtual exposure and experience, but own motivation, issue engagement, and psychological adaptation.

32 Antecedents of Climate Change Behaviours (.80) Concern (.48) Risk Perception (.51) Distress (.46) Self-efficacy (.53) Responsibility Belief.03.70***..68***.71***.73***.89***.52***.07*.12.25*** (.83) Adaptation. 43***.31*** -.15 (.33) Behaviour Hypothesised Model of Antecedents of Climate Change Behaviours (Standardised parameter estimates on arrow-head lines, ***p <.001. *p <.05. Percentage of variance explained in parentheses, in spheres).

33 The relationship between personal experience and belief in the reality of global warming Myers, T. A., Maibach, E. W., Roser-Renouf, C., Akerlof, K., & Leiserowitz, A. A. (in press). The relationship between personal experienced and belief in the reality of global warming. Nature Climate Change.

34 Implications Is fostering such direct, personal experiences a way forward? How could this be accomplished? Is there merit in yoking disaster preparedness and response to climate change? What does this tell us about understandings, risk as feeling, and conventional wisdom like ‘think globally, act locally?’


36 Download a copy of the final report perceptions-second-survey

37 Additional slides


39 Psychological Processes that Influence Adaptation to and Coping with Climate Change

40 Further examples: respondents’ reported experiences of environmental changes and events “ Well during the 50s 60s and 70s gully buster storms came from the sw every afternoon 3pm - 5pm and dump 1-2 inch rain and disappear they only occasionally happen now” (Ballina, NSW). “I live in bushland and have seen birds nesting and hatching earlier each year, flowers blooming a whole month earlier, and insects appearing earlier” (Sydney metro, NSW). “Weather patterns have changed markedly over the past 20 years in the area in which I live: Spring arrives earlier and is not as dry (sub-tropical climate); winters (excluding this one) have been warmer; rainfall during summer has been inconsistent – where once weather could be fairly predictable it is no longer so” (Sunshine Coast, QLD) “I believe the floods and cyclones around are all a huge part of climate change and it's strong impression it's left is a big fear in me as where our world is going and what will happen to the environment and those that live in it. This worries me greatly as I fear for what will have to my children's and there's and so on” (Melbourne metro, VIC) “Have not experienced any change – the drought was part of a cycle, and I said at the time – this too will pass, and it did” (Albury, NSW) “Salinity in coastal areas and dune damage. landscape is not as pretty as it was 20 years ago” (Broom, WA)

41 Sadness, distress, and a yearning to be able to put it all right. It struck me with great force how vulnerable human beings are to the destructive forces in nature, which cannot be controlled. Made me reflect upon the changing climate. It did get me thinking about where the future is headed with the climate. I was pretty indifferent about the cyclone at the time but a few houses were damaged so of coarse I feel a bit sorry for the owners. The Qld floods made me feel anxious and worried for the people effected by them. I recall turning on the TV in the mornings and things kept getting the time I was thinking "this is a big deal" so to speak. Thought this is a sign of things to come Sadness. I believe the divide between rich and poor is getting bigger. The rich making massive a carbon imprint, yet they expect the poor to take more responsibility. Just despair, feeling compassionate towards people caught up in these situations who have lost their homes, possessions and sometimes family and friends also.

42 Respondents were asked to recall any environmental change or event over the past few years that had made a strong impression on them (n = 2443) There has been an increasing level of extremes with seasons; hotter summers and colder winters, along with more ferocity in storm characteristics over the past ten years. I directly associate this with the disruption of oceanic cooling/warming currents due to glacial and polar ice melting at an exponential rate caused by greenhouse gas Bushfires two years ago, The Kinglake fires were very close to the hurstbridge, St. Andrews area and the smoke could be seen from my home. We know people in those areas and the vision on TV was horrendous. The increase in the number of severe weather occurrences, such as the bushfires, cyclones and floods in Australia, flooding in Pakistan and other Asian regions, and tornadoes in the US have made me realise that these are not isolated events and are connected. I have not been affected directly from these, but seeing the images on television and in print does cause me concern about human impact on the planet. There's also the indirect impact of higher food prices. Difficulty in finding tad poles for my daughter to watch grow into frogs Cyclones and flooding in various parts of the world (including floods in Australia) have had a strong impression on me, due to their destructive impact on human life. Our Brisbane Dams have been nearly empty for a long time and we had to be very careful with water. Because of the dry grounds our concrete around our house has cracked.

43 If your level of concern about climate change has changed, could you briefly explain why and how? Some respondents’ comments. “ I am reading more negative reports than positive regarding climate change” (Perth metro, WA) “The recent drought followed by significant local rain and flooding has caused me to be more aware of what is happening to the environment” (Mildura, Vic) “My personal level of concern has not changed but it is worrying to me that the wider community level of concern seems to have significantly decreased (‘green fatigue’)” (Brisbane, Qld) “I now believe that climate change is part of very long cycle over thousands of years or more. That it has all happened before” (Gold Coast, Qld) “Because of the increase in the number of natural disasters” (Sydney metro, NSW) “I am more aware of change and can now see evidence that it is happening” (Hobart, Tas) “After discussions on friends and forums and reading differing opinions, I believe that climate change is a natural occurrence and weather pattern. / We don't have enough weather records to look back over hundreds or thousands of years to check weather cycles and solar patterns. / I believe there is too much pollution and waste in general, but I don't believe carbon is affecting climate change” (Brisbane, Qld)

44 Already the day after tomorrow Climate change behind rise in weather disasters Weather gone wild The 2003 heatwave in France: Dangerous climate change here and now

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