A 15-item version of the survey including questions about hope was distributed to 264 individuals at Baruch College on Oct. 2. 92 percent of the Baruch sample resided within the New York metropolitan area. The average age in the sample was 21 years old with 43 percent female and 57 percent male. Most of the respondents identified themselves as Asian. The surveys were not distributed at random; as such, the results cannot be generalized to the overall public. However, the surveys still provide useful information that can serve as platforms for further climate change discussions.
Respondents, 56 percent from PCM and 57 percent from Baruch reported receiving environmental news from the Internet. When asked how often they actively sought environmental news, 63 percent of PCM and 16 percent of Baruch respondents reported “often” pursuing environmental news. Of the remaining PCM respondents, 32 percent reported “not too often” and 6 percent “rarely” pursuing environmental news. Conversely, 46 percent of Baruch respondents reported “not too often” and 38 percent reported “rarely” following environmental news. The data produced similar results regarding discussing climate change with others; 65 percent of PCM respondents compared to 17 percent of Baruch respondents reported “often” discussing climate change.
When it came to combating climate change, 35 percent of PCM respondents placed the greatest responsibility on politicians, 29 percent on corporations, and 20 percent placed the responsibility on themselves. Similarly, 30 percent of Baruch respondents placed the greatest responsibility on corporations, 27 percent on politicians, and 11 percent on educators.
Regarding the effects of climate change, 95 percent of PCM and 84 percent of Baruch respondents reported feeling at least somewhat afraid to very afraid when thinking about the consequences of climate change. Water shortage, food shortage, infectious diseases, forced migration, dangerous weather, war, and death of the oceans are all potential consequences of climate change. When asked to choose which one was the most important reason to combat climate change, 28 percent of PCM respondents ranked water shortage as most important, as opposed to 32 percent of Baruch students perceiving dangerous weather as the top priority. Food shortages ranked high between both groups.
The government’s efforts to mitigate these risks were not appraised favorably by respondents of either group. Of the PCM sample, 26 percent rated the government’s handling of climate change related issues as needing improvement, 21 percent thought of government efforts as marginal, and an overwhelming 49 percent ranked government response as unsatisfactory. Less than 4 percent rated the government’s endeavors as satisfactory or superior. The Baruch sample was a bit more forgiving, but still presented primarily negative evaluations. Approximately 14 percent of the Baruch sample rated government efforts to address climate change as satisfactory and superior, 45 percent as needing improvement, 19 percent marginal, and 24 percent unsatisfactory.
For the government to most effectively combat climate change, 38 percent of PCM respondents and 16 percent of Baruch respondents deemed instituting a carbon tax prime, 23 percent of PCM and 31 percent of Baruch respondents considered tax relief for utilizing alternative forms of energy key, and 10 percent of PCM and 17 percent of Baruch respondents appraised government distribution of solar panels as most effective.
Going forward, to combat climate change, a quarter of PCM and 14 percent of Baruch respondents said they would discuss climate change with others, respectively. 11 percent of PCM and 10 percent of Baruch respondents said they would walk instead of use carbon-energy based transportation, 11 percent of PCM and 38 percent of Baruch said they would turn off lights and turn down the thermostat, and 13 percent of PCM and 12 percent of Baruch respondents said they would only support environmentally friendly companies.
The majority of Baruch respondents asserted that the most important reason to combat climate change was dangerous weather.One of the greatest disparities between the two groups is the frequency with which climate change information is sought after and discussed, and to whom the responsibility to combat climate change is assigned. While 20 percent of PCM respondents assumed responsibility for combatting climate change, only 9 percent of Baruch respondents followed suit; as to exactly why is still under speculation. Some may believe that an exacting knowledge on the issue has an effect on the results. The more knowledge one has on issues concerning climate change, the more likely one is to discuss them and better able assess how much they can contribute to help fight the cause. Knowledge may be the antecedent to crossing over from prescribing responsibility for fighting climate change externally, to assuming it internally.
Despite negative government reviews and considerable levels of fear, approximately 71 percent of Baruch participants reported being somewhat or very hopeful climate change could still be controlled and 58 percent expressed being somewhat or very hopeful it could still be reversed. Although hope alone will not reduce the damages caused by climate change, greater efforts within the Baruch community to provide climate change information and institute school-wide initiatives to go green and be more environmentally sustainable can be pushed for. Baruch respondents were considerably enthusiastic about utilizing solar panels and alternative forms of energy to combat climate change; perhaps these are some initiatives that can be implemented within Baruch as well.
Learning how to calculate and reduce one’s carbon footprint can be a great first step in making greater strides and existing more responsibly within the environment. Utilizing food waste, in combination with other activities like composting, help reduce the need for water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Planting trees helps sequester carbon emissions from the atmosphere, while adopting a more vegetarian friendly diet helps decrease the amount of livestock necessary for feed, which according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations equates to more carbon emissions than all forms of transportation combined. These suggestions range in both effort and contribution, but are only a few of the things that can be done to help combat climate change.