Exploring perceptions of dangerous climate change

Understanding what constitutes dangerous climate change is increasingly important for both scientific analyses and the climate policy debate. The objective of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change is to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. But what is dangerous interference? Interpretation is crucial for determining the extent of time and level of resources for managing climate change. Climate experts often focus upon definitions that are based on the notion of a threshold beyond which substantial climate change takes place resulting in conspicuous impacts. But definitions of dangerous climate change also depend on societal judgements about the value of ecosystems and human systems that may be affected by climate change. In other words, what risks from climate change are acceptable to society and which may be considered ‘dangerous’? Professor Nick Pidgeon, Director of the Centre for Environmental Risk at the University of East Anglia, is leading Tyndall Centre research into expert and lay definitions of dangerous climate change. This work will review the evolution and development of climate change perceptions and analyse current data, including the 2002 CER/MORI survey on public perceptions. Definitions of danger within the climate science community will also be investigated, as will the role of the media in shaping perceptions of climate change. Crossover and links between climate and risk communities have been few. A major international workshop will bring together scholars from the climate science and societal disciplines with stakeholders to discuss perspectives relevant to their own fields of expertise. This research aims to forge deeper appreciations of working definitions of danger by climate communities and non-experts, as both groups shape policy-making, with a view to instigating adequate integrated responses to climate change.
The Centre for Environmental Risk at the University of East Anglia is leading Tyndall Centre research into expert and lay definitions of dangerous climate change.

More information
Contact the lead investigator of Project T3.32 (A strategic assessment of scientific and behavioural perspectives on dangerous climate change): Professor Nick Pidgeon Centre for Environmental Risk Zuckerman Institute for Connective Environmental Research University of East Anglia Norwich NR4 7TJ Tel: 01603 593129 E-mail: n.pidgeon@uea.ac.uk Other researchers involved in this project are: Irene Lorenzoni and Wouter Poortinga, Centre for Environmental Risk, UEA Dr Emma Tompkins, Prof. Mike Hulme, Dr Neil Adger, Tyndall Centre HQ, UEA Prof. Nigel Arnell, Tyndall Centre South, Southampton

Useful Websites
Centre for Environmental Risk www.uea.ac.uk/env/cer Defining dangerous climate change (archived contributions to online debate) www.tyndall.ac.uk/forum/messages/archive/dangerous.html Dessai et al. (2003) Defining and experiencing dangerous climate change (Tyndall working paper 28) www.tyndall.ac.uk/publications/working_papers/working_papers.shtml Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research www.tyndall.ac.uk Project duration: August 2003 – October 2004

Round 3

© M Robinson