Perceptions of climate change: Linking local and global perceptions through a cultural knowledge approach

Beatrice Crona, Amber Wutich, Alexandra Slade, Meredith Gartin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Understanding public perceptions of climate change is fundamental to both climate science and policy because it defines local and global socio-political contexts within which policy makers and scientists operate. To date, most studies addressing climate change perceptions have been place-based. While such research is informative, comparative studies across sites are important for building generalized theory around why and how people understand and interpret climate change and associated risks. This paper presents a cross-sectional study from six different country contexts to illustrate a novel comparative approach to unraveling the complexities of local vs global perceptions around climate change. We extract and compare 'cultural knowledge' regarding climate change using the theory of 'culture as consensus'. To demonstrate the value of this approach, we examine cross-national data to see if people within specific and diverse places share ideas about global climate change. Findings show that although data was collected using ethnographically derived items collected through place-based methods we still find evidence of a shared cultural model of climate change which spans the diverse sites in the six countries. Moreover, there are specific signs of climate change which appear to be recognized cross-culturally. In addition, results show that being female and having a higher education are both likely to have a positive effect on global cultural competency of individuals. We discuss these result in the context of literature on environmental perceptions and propose that people with higher education are more likely to share common perceptions about climate change across cultures and tentatively suggest that we appear to see the emergence of a 'global', cross-cultural mental model around climate change and its potential impacts which in itself is linked to higher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-531
Number of pages13
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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