[Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

Tupper, Mark (WorldFish) M.Tupper at CGIAR.ORG
Wed Oct 28 20:12:46 EDT 2009

Dear All,

It's interesting that here in the Philippines, inhabitants of some of the smaller island provinces (e.g. Bohol, Camiguin, Calamianes Islands, etc.) generally believe strongly in climate change and sea level rise. Many of them claim that their waterfront properties have been altered already by rising sea level, and many fishermen also believe that increasing sea surface temperatures have changed migratory behavior of their target fish stocks, particularly yellowfin tuna. Of note is that these opinions generally belonged to people with 10 years or less of formal education and very little exposure to media coverage of climate change. One group I talked to in Camiguin said that the first time they heard it about global warming in a formal sense was when their priest gave a sermon about it in church. They further said that after hearing the sermon, they finally had a name and a cause for something they had known was happening for many years. 

Unfortunately, as I sat there with them discussing the problems of carbon emission, which they blame on "city folk" in Manila, the USA, and China, piles of garbage outside every door in Camiguin were burning, causing a thick haze that made an otherwise fairly pristine island look like Los Angeles. When I asked them if 14,000 homes burning trash on a small island might be a bad idea, their response was yes it was bad for the air, but the island was too small to contribute to global climate change. So, they would continue to burn their trash until a proper garbage collection and disposal program was implemented, as they wanted their island to remain clean and litter-free. In this case, the issue is not about belief in climate change. It's just that climate change is "Somebody Else's Problem".


Dr. Mark Tupper
Scientist - Coral Reefs and Reef Fisheries
The WorldFish Center
Los Baños, Laguna, PHILIPPINES
Tel +632 580-5659 (2889) GMT +8
Mobile: +63 917-524-0864
Reducing poverty and hunger by improving fisheries and aquaculture.

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Szmant, Alina
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:44 PM
To: John Bruno; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Cc: Richard B. Aronson
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

In my opinion, we also have another broader question:  scientific illiteracy in the US.  That is one reason we have such an issue with the process of evolution, with the credibility about vacines, etc.  I heard a nurse on TV doubt the efficacy of the (any) flu vacine, and another person saying that the vacines were a product of the US government trying to control the people.  With that kind of general ignorance, and mistrust of everything government, climate change is just of many issues that the American public has difficulty understanding.  In my opinion, we are doomed...

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Coral Reef Research Program, Center for Marine Science
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington NC 28409
Tel:  (910)962-2362; fax: (910)962-2410;  cell:  (910)200-3913

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