Climate change in the Zambian mind: communicating risk perception of climate change and variability in Zambia
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No environmental issue has been of such truly global magnitude as the issue of climate change. And no other global environmental issue has been so controversial, not because of lack of scientific knowledge, but rather because it is a result of every human action and will have a direct impact on all human endeavour everywhere. We assessed whether Zambians perceive climate change as a significant threat and whether their risk perceptions of climate change influence their awareness of the degradation of the environment. The paper also examines the affective images Zambians have of global warming and whether these images can influence individuals’ behaviour to mitigate global warming. The mean image affect for the most salient image association of global warming was – 4.60 (SD = 4.36); demonstrating that global warming has primarily negative connotations for Zambians. The results indicate that greater perception of the severity of climate change problems cause respondents to be more aware of the degradation of the environment (β = 0.56, p < .001). The results also indicate that respondents with higher risk experience and perception prefer the risk management policies. The result further indicates that the more the respondents experienced the environmental risks, the higher they perceived the risks. Respondents also felt that environmental education strategies were very important in changing public behaviour to reduce the environmental risks. The fundamental claim of this paper, however, is that better environmental information dissemination, more environmental knowledge, or more environmental communication alone will not necessarily lead to desirable social change. While we strongly believe that better understanding has an important role to play, environmental knowledge that does not keep barriers to behaviour and social change in mind is unlikely to be effective or sufficient. Successful environmental policies that mobilize action on climate change education therefore, must take into account the options that people have for action and their social and cognitive characteristics.
Zambia Social Science Journal