Does it matter if people think climate change is human caused?

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There is a growing consensus that climate is changing, but beliefs about the causal factors vary widely among the general public. Current research shows that such causal beliefs are strongly influenced by cultural, political, and identity-driven views. We examined the influence that local perceptions have on the acceptance of basic facts about climate change. We also examined the connection to wildfire by local people. Two recent telephone surveys found that 37% (in 2011) and 46% (in 2014) of eastern Oregon (USA) respondents accept the scientific consensus that human activities are now changing the climate. Although most do not agree with that consensus, large majorities (85–86%) do agree that climate is changing, whether by natural or human causes. Acceptance of anthropogenic climate change generally divides along political party lines, but acceptance of climate change more generally, and concerns about wildfire, transcend political divisions. Support for active forest management to reduce wildfire risks is strong in this region, and restoration treatments could be critical to the resilience of both communities and ecosystems. Although these immediate steps involve adaptations to a changing climate, they can be motivated without necessarily invoking human-caused climate change, a divisive concept among local landowners.




Hartter, J., Hamilton, L. C., Boag, A. E., Stevens, F. R., Ducey, M. J., Christoffersen, N. D., … Palace, M. W. (2018). Does it matter if people think climate change is human caused? Climate Services, 10, 53–62.

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