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Public Understanding of Climate Change as a Social Dilemma

Understanding Risk Group/ Climate Change Consortium of Wales/ Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3AT, UK
Sustainability 2013, 5(8), 3484-3501;
Received: 6 May 2013 / Revised: 3 August 2013 / Accepted: 7 August 2013 / Published: 13 August 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Creative Solutions to Big Challenges)
PDF [670 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Climate change is often referred to as one of the most complicated challenges facing humanity, characterised in various literatures as a social dilemma operating at multiple scales (individual, national, international). The present study considers the ways in which members of the public interpret climate change in these terms, drawing on data from multiple datasets, both qualitative and quantitative, from 1997 to 2011. As well as drawing out the nuances in participants’ perspectives on the social and societal dilemmas inherent to climate change, the present study also highlights the rejoinders and resolutions proposed by people to these dilemmas. It is suggested that recognition of the ways people find to navigate these difficult issues offers some cause for optimism regarding the public’s conceptualisation of, and response to, climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: public perceptions; climate change; social dilemma; discourse analysis; psychology public perceptions; climate change; social dilemma; discourse analysis; psychology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Capstick, S.B. Public Understanding of Climate Change as a Social Dilemma. Sustainability 2013, 5, 3484-3501.

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