Public perceptions of global warming

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38 Scopus citations


This study explored public perceptions of global warming and the diverse meanings that lay people attribute to the phenomenon. The data came from six weeks of observation of visitors to a special Smithsonian Institution exhibit on global warming. The focus of the fieldwork was to document the meanings that people gave to global warming and related concepts during their tour of the exhibit by recording the comments, questions, and other narrative accounts of the visitors. Six weeks of field research yielded approximately 150 individual observations of visitor's interpretations of global warming, energy consumption, the greenhouse effect, nonrenewable resources, pollution, and ozone depletion. Three patterns emerged from the data: a gradient of knowledge with the attentive public falling between the average citizen and those who have become engaged, a catastrophism that represents a reverse availability heuristic, and a belief in the robustness of the biosphere. While each of these have some relation to previous work, it would be useful to see if survey-based or experimental studies confirm these tentative conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-30
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Ecology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • Lay perspectives
  • Public knowledge
  • Qualitative research
  • Smithsonian Institute

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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