Global Perceptions of Local Temperature Change

It is difficult to detect global warming directly because most people experience changes only in local weather patterns, which are highly variable and may not reflect long-term global climate trends. However, local climate-change experience may play an important role in adaptation and mitigation behaviour and policy support. Previous research indicates that people can perceive and adapt to aspects of climate variability and change based on personal observations. Experience with local weather may also influence global warming beliefs. Here we examine the extent to which respondents in 89 countries detect recent changes in average local temperatures. We demonstrate that public perceptions correspond with patterns of observed temperature change from climate records: individuals who live in places with rising average temperatures are more likely than others to perceive local warming. As global climate change intensifies, changes in local temperatures and weather patterns may be increasingly detected by the global public. These findings also suggest that public opinion of climate change may shift, at least in part, in response to the personal experience of climate change.

View Full Text (subscription required)