Humans impact climate: research

Increasing storm damage is one sign of climate change.
Increasing storm damage is one sign of climate change.

AUSTRALIANS accept human impact on climate change and are taking action to reduce it, according to new research.

A research project by Griffith University and Cardiff University in Wales surveyed 7500 Australians and 1800 Britons and found 90% of Australian and 89% of British respondents accepted that humans are part of the cause of climate change.

There were striking similarities overall, but Australian respondents viewed climate change as a more "immediate, proximal (that is it is near), and certain threat" compared to British respondents who were beginning to adapt to it through changes in their thinking, feelings and behaviours.

And 71% of Australians reported increased awareness, media coverage, perceived lack of government action and increasing frequency of natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Only 6.5% doubted humans' role in climate change.

"There has been a continuing and widespread misreading of the Australian public's acceptance of and often deeply felt responses to climate change," Australian project leader, Professor Joseph Reser said.

"A particularly noteworthy finding was that 54% of Australian said they believed the impacts of climate change were already being felt here and 45% believed they had personally encountered noteworthy changes or events associated with climate change.

Prof Reser said when people encountered an environmental change or event that they attributed to climate change, it changed them. For many it became a local, concrete and immediate encounter.

"Climate change was influencing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, according to 71% of us.

"Psychological adaptation to climate change appears to act as a powerful mediator between the distress they experienced at media coverage, the implications of climate change and the need to get involved.

"Most Australians are not paralysed by the debate, they're taking action," he said.

The project is monitoring key psychological responses, changes and impacts taking place in association with climate change.

It is being conducted under the guidance of a team of applied psychologists with expertise in environmental, social and health psychology as well as risk perception and communication, disaster preparedness and response.

Two Australian surveys were conducted in mid 2010 and 2011, the British survey in 2010.

Topics:  climate change environment global warming study

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