University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Lawrence Hamilton, UNH Department of Sociology
The Effect of Regional Climate Trends on Public Opinion of Climate Change
Climate change is being caused by human activities. Increased greenhouse gases and changes in land use are causing a rise in average global temperatures (“global warming”). Regional and local effects of climate change are diverse. They include warming and cooling in some regions, changes in precipitation, storms, and seasonality. It has also become a divisive political issue in the United States. It is a technical concept and misinformation and misunderstanding is the basis of many oppositional opinions on the issue. If nothing is done to address the problems posed by climate change they will only become more severe. One of the greatest hurdles to addressing climate change is simply and effectively communicating the reasons for its existence. Throughout history different geographic climates have experienced climate change differently. Some areas have been more affected than others. This study will investigate the correlation between differentiated climate and public opinion of climate change.
I will be testing the hypothesis that trends in regional temperature and precipitation have an effect on public perceptions about climate change in that region. The study will integrate historical climate data from the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) with regional public opinion surveys from the Community and Environment in Rural America (CERA) project conducted by UNH researchers from 2009–2011. The historical climate data will allow for the measurement of climate trends across twenty six CERA counties. These trends will be compared to responses to questions on climate change from the public opinion surveys conducted in each county. Because other factors such as political views and education also affect climate change opinions, the statistical analysis will take these into account by utilizing controls. This study will explore what makes people think the way they do on the issue of climate change. The results of this research can be used in the future to improve education and scientific communication about climate change.