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Responses to Climate Change in the Australian Community

Zoe Leviston, CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences, Australia

Wednesday 21 March 2012, 1200-1300
LEC Training Room 1

There is unequivocal scientific evidence that climate change threatens us on an unprecedented scale. Yet our response as both individuals and communities has been disproportionate to the threat. Maladaptive responses to climate change may take many forms, including a general failure to act, an abdication of one's responsibilities, or outright denial in the existence of climate change. We suggest that individual attitudinal and behavioural responses to climate change serve a range of individual and collective functions. We present the results of an analysis of the Australian community's response to climate change, including a series of large national surveys and workshops. The surveys, undertaken in 2010 and 2011 with a sample of over 5,000 participants in each, suggest that climate change beliefs and behaviours are linked to a range of justifications about the nature of political and social systems, and beliefs about what others in the community think. This in turn is strongly linked to people's own sense of identity and 'self-esteem'. The pitfalls of the Australian approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation are discussed.

About Zoe:

Zoe has been working as a social scientist for the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) since 2004, investigating the way in which human cognitions, beliefs, values and culture shape the relationship between our society, the natural environment and human behaviour. She applies theoretical and methodological principles from social psychology and related fields to several resource domains, principally water security, rural land management and climate change. She is currently completing a PhD in Psychology addressing the psychological and social functions of people's reactions to climate change.