Public Perception of Climate Change. Voluntary Mitigation and Barriers to Behavior Change

Jan C. Semenza, David E. Hall, Daniel J. Wilson, Brian D. Bontempo, David J. Sailor, Linda A. George

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

367 Scopus citations


Mitigating global climate change requires not only government action but also cooperation from consumers. Population-based, cross-sectional surveys were conducted among 1202 respondents in Portland OR and Houston TX between June and September 2007 regarding awareness, concern, and behavior change related to climate change. The data were subjected to both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Awareness about climate change is virtually universal (98% in Portland and 92% in Houston) with the vast majority reporting some level of concern (90% in Portland and 82% in Houston). A multivariate analysis revealed significant predictors of behavior change: individuals with heightened concern about climate change (p<0.001); respondents with higher level of education (p= 0.03); younger compared with older individuals (p<0.001); and Portlanders more likely to change behavior compared with Houstonians (p<0.001). Of those who changed behavior, 43% reported having reduced their energy usage at home, 39% had reduced gasoline consumption, and 26% engaged in other behaviors, largely recycling. Qualitative data indicate a number of cognitive, behavioral, and structural obstacles to voluntary mitigation. Although consumers are interested in global climate change-mitigation strategies and willing to act accordingly, considerable impediments remain. Government policy must eliminate economic, structural, and social barriers to change and advance accessible and economical alternatives. Individual-level mitigation can be a policy option under favorable contextual conditions, as these results indicate, but must be accompanied by mitigation efforts from industry, commerce, and government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-487
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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