9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Climate Change and the Public Building I, Auditório 4

Social Choice and Climate Change: An international sociological assessment on climate change public perceptions and public compliance with policy objectives

Climate change emerged as a global scientific phenomenon in late 1980's, resulting from recurrent scientific assessment providing reasonable evidence on the impact of human activities on regional and global climatic conditions (IPCC, 2004). Consistency of such scientific arguments led the United Nations Development Program and the World Meteorological Organization to jointly create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, aiming to provide periodic state-of-the-art scientific evaluation.

Shortly after its creation, the IPCC would realize that traditional scientific approaches to environmental issues would not contain a problem of such dimension: scale, complexity and interconnectedness of the causes of climate change, as well as its consequences, confronted scientific and political institutions with the need to build effective policy answers. As a response, three working groups were created, providing regular assessment on climate change phenomena (WG I), its environmental and economical impacts (WG II) and the formulation of response strategies (WG III).

Among these assessment efforts, the need to measure and critically analyze public perceptions on climate change was recognized as a central issue, especially when compliance with policy objectives among stakeholders and citizens is to be achieved. In this sense, the scientific community has provided empirically grounded sociological knowledge on public awareness of climate change phenomena, its causes and consequences, as well as willingness to change behavioral patterns.

Within this paper we will present preliminary results from an ongoing research project focused on the need to innovate empirical sociological assessment on climate change public perceptions and willingness to participate on policy initiatives: available international data on climate change public perceptions will be presented (national and international surveys), compared and critically analyzed; conceptual and methodological issues will be discussed; results from the application of a national survey on climate change public perceptions in Portugal will be presented and discussed; guidelines on survey design issues and alternative methodological options for data collection will be discussed.