A new, valid measure of climate change understanding: associations with risk perception

Research paper by Julie C. Libarkin, Anne U. Gold, Sara E. Harris, Karen S. McNeal, Ryan P. Bowles

Indexed on: 07 Sep '18Published on: 06 Sep '18Published in: Climatic Change


The relationship between climate change understanding and other variables, including risk perception, beliefs, and worldviews, is an important consideration as we work to increase public attention to climate change. Despite significant effort to develop rigorous mechanisms for measuring affective variables, measurement of climate change understanding is often relegated to unvalidated questions or question sets. To remedy this situation, we constructed and analyzed a climate change concept inventory using a suite of validity and reliability steps, including Rasch analysis. The resultant 21-item test has a high degree of validity and reliability for measuring understanding about basic climate change processes. Inventory scores along with other variables were included in a model of climate change risk perception, providing both concurrent validity for the test and new insight into the importance of understanding, worldview, and values on risk perception. We find that environmental beliefs and cultural cognition worldview play a larger role in predicting an individual’s risk perception than knowledge. Implications for addressing climate change are considered.