Climate Change Scepticism at Universities: A Global Study
1.1. Climate Action at Universities
1.2. Scepticism about Climate Change
- Rectors and office managers of universities participant in the Green Sustainability Metrics 2018;
- Authors with more than four publications on the subject “sustainability at universities” in the Web of Science between 2009 and 2018;
- Participants of the World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities, held in September 2016 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) and that takes place regularly in different regions of the world bringing together the main researchers, managers and community interested in the subject;
- Representatives of Universities (Rector, sustainability office manager, researcher/teacher) participating in the Inter-University Program for Sustainable Development Research (IUSDRP);
- Representatives of the Universities (rector, sustainability office manager, researcher/professor) participating in Alliance Copernicus (Transformation of the sustainability of science systems);
- Rectors and Managers of the Sustainability Office of the Universities participating in the Association, for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AACHE).
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Personal Beliefs and Perceptions of Climate Change at Universities
3.2. Further Statistical Analysis
- South American universities are the ones which least believe that universities should have a climate change policy;
- Asian universities are least likely to believe that a university should contribute in its operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets and adaptation strategies set by the government;
- Asian, South American and African universities attach less importance to matters related to climate change and contribute less in their operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets set by the government, when compared to other regions (Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania);
- South American and African Universities have a less developed official policy or planning framework for combating climate change, and have the least specific units that address climate change through ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ when compared to other regions.
Conflicts of Interest
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|China||Shenyang University, aiming at improved environmental performance, enhanced public awareness, and cost reduction on campus maintenance, has undertaken a series of efforts including water recycling, the application of ground source heat pump, source separation for solid wastes, green education, and enhanced research activities on environmental protection .|
|USA||The American College offers one of the examples of cooperation among universities on matters related to climate change and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), launched in 2006 as a collective effort by higher education institutions (HEI) to pursue climate neutrality in campus operations and integrate climate issues into their education, research, and community engagement activities . |
In 2015, 318 colleges and universities (e.g., Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University) joined the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge launched by the President Obama Administration. By signing the pledge, universities demonstrated their support for robust International Climate Action and accelerated the transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices across their campus .
Investment in competitions and campaigns aimed at the promotion of climate change action . As an example, the Campus Conservation Nationals  is the most significant short-term electricity reduction competition in the world, with more than 130 participating universities and colleges in 2015.
The Cornell University has launched the program called Cornell Climate Change Program Work Team (PWT) which provides a mechanism through which faculty and extension educators connect with stakeholders to identify the needs surrounding climate change impacts and opportunities in New York State, create educational materials, and design learning experiences that address these needs. The Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions (CICSS) is focused on supporting farmers of New York and beyond with decision tools for strategic adaptation to climate change .
|Canada||The College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada  is a Canadian experience which focuses on both the responsibility of universities to reduce emissions and opportunities to accelerate larger solutions beyond campuses .|
|England||The University of Winchester introduced a Five-Year Strategy 2016–2021 on Climate Change Education. The document includes objectives, strategic priorities and ways of their realisation. The University identified four strategic priority areas: Embedded Education, Research, Shared Vision, and Strong Partnerships. It strives to make climate change education available, accessible and relevant for all undergraduates, whatever their chosen subject; to establish a Research Centre for Climate Change Education and Communications and to introduce a fully funded PhD studentship in the subject .|
|Scotland||Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland (UCCCfS) creates a structure for universities and colleges to show the reduction of carbon emissions and commitment to tackling climate change. Signatories produce and publish a 5-year Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) which will be incorporated into established improvement processes, with the aim to achieve a significant reduction in emissions .|
|Germany||The Research and Transfer Centre “Sustainable Development and Climate Change Management” at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, conducts multi-disciplinary research and runs various training events on climate change adaptation. It also runs the International Climate Change Information Programme, a leading provider of education and training on climate change, with a variety of events being organised around the world .|
|Africa||Although some experts admit that the potential of African universities to address climate change is not being fully realised, one example of successful climate change-related initiative was the four-day forum ‘Education, Capacity Building, and Climate Change: a Strategy for Collective Action in Africa’ organised by the International START Secretariat and held in Salaam, in June 2010. The Forum participants identified a number of areas for short- and long-term actions to advance curricula development .|
Another initiative is the Programme for Climate Change Capacity Development (PCCCD) developed by Southern African Universities Association (SARUA) and member universities in 2010. The program is a direct response to the climate change impacts facing southern Africa. A consortium among seven universities developed a shared regional master curriculum in climate change and sustainable development based on the principles of inter- and trans-disciplinary, relevance, new knowledge and innovation .
|Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities||229||96.6|
|Climate change is happening now but caused mainly by natural forces||4||1.7|
|Climate change is not happening now||1||0.4|
|Don’t know/no answer||3||1.2|
|Statement||Strongly Disagree||Disagree||Don’t know||Agree||Strongly Agree|
|General perception + what universities should do||S1. The consequences of climate change will be very serious.||3.4||0.4||1.7||17.3||76.8|
|S2. A university should have a climate change policy.||3.0||3.0||5.1||21.9||67.1|
|S3. A university should contribute in its operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets set by the government.||0.8||0.8||2.5||28.3||67.5|
|S4. A university should contribute in its operation to achieve the adaptation strategies to climate change set by the government.||0.8||0.4||5.5||30.0||62.4|
|S5. A university should educate its students about the cause of climate change.||0.8||0.0||0.4||15.6||81.9|
|S6. A university should educate its students about the impact of climate change in all disciplines.||0.8||4.6||4.2||25.7||63.3|
|S7. A university should encourage its students to search for solutions with regards to problems caused by climate change.||0.4||0.8||2.1||22.8||73.0|
|What universities are really doing||S8. Your University attaches a lot of importance to matters related to climate change.||5.9||22.4||11.4||47.3||11.8|
|S9. The official policy or planning framework for combating climate change at your University is well developed.||11.8||34.6||22.4||25.7||4.6|
|S10. The person in charge of planning on matters related to climate change issues at your university is afforded enough resources to work effectively.||17.7||27.8||36.3||14.3||3.0|
|S11. Climate change policies, procedures or activities are properly implemented in teaching and research at your University.||9.7||38.8||21.9||25.7||2.5|
|S12. My university contributes in its operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets set by the government.||7.2||22.8||21.1||38.4||9.7|
|S13. My university educates its students about the impact of climate change on the discipline chosen by the student.||5.5||27.4||23.6||35.9||5.1|
|S14. There are specific units that address climate change through ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ at my University.||5.5||19.0||16.9||41.4||16.5|
|Question||Europe||Asia||S. America||N. America||Oceania||Africa||All Regions|
|S2 A university should have a climate change policy.||Region||p = 0.026||South America has lowest score|
|S3 A university should contribute in its operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets set by the government.||Region||p = 0.002||Asia has lowest score|
|S4 A university should contribute in its operation to achieve the adaptation strategies to climate change set by the government.||Region||p = 0.045||Asia has lowest score|
|S8 Your University attaches a lot of importance to matters related to climate change.||Region||p = 0.000||Asia, South America and Africa have lowest scores|
|S9 The official policy or planning framework for combating climate change at your University is well developed.||Region||p = 0.000||South America and Africa have lowest scores|
|S10 The person in charge of planning on matters related to climate change issues at your University is afforded enough resources to work effectively.||Region||p = 0.013||South America and Africa have lowest scores|
|S12 My University contributes in its operation to achieve the carbon reduction targets set by the government.||Region||p = 0.000||Asia, South America and Africa have lowest scores|
|S14 There are specific units that address climate change through ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ at my University||Region||p = 0.007||Asia and South America have lowest scores|
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Leal Filho, W.; Mifsud, M.; Molthan-Hill, P.; J. Nagy, G.; Veiga Ávila, L.; Salvia, A.L. Climate Change Scepticism at Universities: A Global Study. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2981. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102981
Leal Filho W, Mifsud M, Molthan-Hill P, J. Nagy G, Veiga Ávila L, Salvia AL. Climate Change Scepticism at Universities: A Global Study. Sustainability. 2019; 11(10):2981. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102981Chicago/Turabian Style
Leal Filho, Walter, Mark Mifsud, Petra Molthan-Hill, Gustavo J. Nagy, Lucas Veiga Ávila, and Amanda Lange Salvia. 2019. "Climate Change Scepticism at Universities: A Global Study" Sustainability 11, no. 10: 2981. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102981