Perceptions of and Attitudes Toward Climate Change in the Southeastern United States
Despite a global scientific consensus on the anthropogenic nature of climate change, the issue remains highly contentious in the United States, stifling public debate and action on the issue. Local perceptions of and attitudes toward climate change-how different groups of people outside of the professional climate science community make sense of changes in climate in light of their personal experiences and social, political, economic, and environmental contexts- are critical foci for understanding ongoing conflicts over climate change. Contributing to a growing body of literature on the social science of climate change, we use an ethnographic approach to examine these perceptions and attitudes in three sites in Georgia across the urban-rural continuum. Our research demonstrates that the way people view the concept of climate change, its potential effects, and mitigation strategies are mediated by a range of factors, including political and religious affiliation, race and ethnicity, personal experience, economic status, environmental context, media exposure, and sense of community and place. We argue that an ethnographic approach that explores the perceptions and attitudes of specific communities in detail can add nuance to the broad-scale surveys that have dominated the field to date.