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Geography Plays a Role in Whether People Believe in Climate Change

Those who live near the coast are more likely to think climate change is real.

Wellington, New Zealand. (Flickr/Phillip Capper)

Who believes in climate change? We know liberals mostly do, and that women are more likely to than men. Now, a New Zealand-based study adds another demographic to the planet-sympathizing mix: people who live near the coast.

And that’s not just because lefties prefer beachfront property. The researchers polled several thousand randomly selected New Zealanders across the country. While political orientation and gender were the strongest predictors of climate-change belief, proximity to the ocean also had a significant, isolatable effect. 

There are two compelling explanations why this might be the case. First, people living near the ocean are more likely to experience significant, climate-change related impacts, like flooding and storms. And second, these folks have probably pondered how they and their communities will adapt to a potential rise in sea-level. On the flip side, inlanders might have less first-hand experience (or expectation) of climate change impacts, and are therefore less likely to take the issue of climate change seriously – or even think it's happening.

These results could shed light on science communicators' struggle to convey the consequences of unchecked carbon emissions, especially to those who haven’t experienced, or thought about experiencing, such consequences. 

Personally, I like the idea of some kind of climate change virtual reality simulator—as long as it’s narrated in the Queen’s tongue. As Mother Jones pointed out earlier today, the world’s most egregious climate change-deniers tend to be native speakers of English.

Top image from Flickr user Phillip Capper.

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