In my backyard, or not—but is that really the question?

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In my backyard, or not—but is that really the question?
   Photo © World Bank

For years scientists have argued that in order to grab the public’s attention to global warming, citizens must be told how the towns, regions and communities in which they and their children live will be affected. Information on local level impacts – the argument runs – makes climate change “real” and should therefore be the cornerstone of public support for mitigation.

However, recent research questions the conventional thinking. A paper by Shwom, Dan & Dietz finds that people who received information on the predicted regional impacts of climate change did not increase climate change policy support compared to those receiving national information. Why is this? The authors advance a number of possible reasons, ranging from the way information was provided to the fact that people do not actually discern between regional or national impacts when they consider climate change. More importantly, they question policy recommendations on how to best communicate climate change that are often established with little empirical research backing them.

The paper is good reading for policymakers, politicians, multilateral banks, NGOs, and others looking at ways to effectively engage the public and promote action.

Rachael Shwom & Amy Dan & Thomas Dietz (2008) The effects of information and state of residence on climate change policy preferences Climatic Change (2008) 90:343–358.


Andrea Liverani

Lead Specialist in the Europe and Central Asia Region's Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice

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