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Global warming, as part of the worldwide phenomena known as climate change, has been increasing its influence in people's lives. The latest report carried by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2007), explains how human beings have been affecting the climate system by increasing the emission of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. One outcome of this effect is the decreasing of snow and ice cover in the North Hemisphere during the last decades, causing local and global impacts in ecosystems, climate and societies, among others (United Nations Environmental Program [UNEP], 2007). Understanding people's perception about global warming can be the first step to improve governmental politics. Therefore, this research will investigate student's attitudes to global warming.
Earlier investigations carried out in the 1970s incorporated for the first time the environmental topic in public surveys, but only in the 1980s some of these began to include global warming matters (Bord et al., 1998). Nowadays, people are well informed about global issues, due to the widespread of communications and international accords among governments. One example of this is the documentary film "An Inconvenient True", directed by Davis Guggenheim, in which are shown the efforts to educate citizens carried out by Al Gore - the former U.S Vice President - by means of simple terms. Nevertheless, phenomena like greenhouse effect and ozone layer depletion are still poorly understood by undergraduate and high school students (Kerr & Walz, 2007).
University students have many attitudes which can either aid to reduce the effects on global warming or to increase them. Ecological practices can be learned by teachers and governmental institutions. Thus, this report will find out the student's environmental actions with respect to global warming.
If the society does not understand the high risk concerning by global warming, it will be a great problem in the near future. With regard to this, young people should be the first target in any research about human's environmental attitude, thus we will try to find some key aspects of the students' awareness about global warming, their current behaviour in connection with this matter, and whether what they are willing to change their attitudes.
Global warming is one of the most exciting and challenging issues, because our future depends on the actions that we take in the present. Moreover, this research tries to be a small contribution to this socio-environmental problem, pointing out that it is restricted to a specific group of students, thus possible results have to be taken with prudence.
It is expected that students from developing countries are less worried about global warming than students from developed countries.
This research will attempt to determine:
Students' understanding about global warming.
Means of transport chosen by students, comparing gender.
Students' habits about using energy, comparing gender.
Opinions in relation to government behaviour toward to global warming, comparing nationality
Possible solutions proposed by students, comparing nationality.
II. MATERIALS, METHODS AND DATA
The main materials used to collect data for this research are the questionnaires. In addition, the English For Otago (EFO) Group Research Report textbook has been used as a guide to develop this research.
The methodology for gathering the data was distributing questionnaires to the international and domestic student who study at the University of Otago. The questionnaires were distributed and completed at either the Central Library or the Otago Language Center from 23rd November to 26th November 2010, during the lunchtime and after classes.
The ideal sample population would be all students of the University of Otago (i.e. roughly 21,500 students in the last year), from both genders and different nationalities. However, it is not feasible to gather information from every student in a limited time; hence, a representative sample was surveyed. Because of the small number of respondents, any conclusions made from this research might not be wholly accurate and should be used with caution.
In total, there were 40 students interviewed, including 20 males and 20 females (Table 1). These students were also divided into two groups of developed countries and developing countries, according to their nationalities. The decision whether a country is developed or developing was based on last report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released in November 2010.
Table 1. Number and proportion of interviewees
Numbers of students
Figure 1.a. Students' belief in global warming.
Figure 1.a provides information about the view of students on the issue of global warming. As can be seen, the majority of students (86%) believe that the global warming is a real problem compared with just 5% of students who consider global warming as an unreal issue.
Figure 1.b Students' understanding about the causes of global warming.
Figure 1.b shows students' opinion about the reasons for global warming. It can be seen from the data that the highest numbers of students (57%) choose 'Both human activities & natural phenomena' causing global warming whereas 'Human activities' and 'Natural phenomena' separately are voted by far fewer students.
Figure 1.c Students' understanding about the consequences of global warming.
Figure 1.c illustrates students' thinking about possible consequences of global warming. As the graph shows, significant number of respondents (26 out of 44) considers that global warming can lead to extreme weather, effects on human health, rising sea levels and effects on the environment.
Figure 1.d Students' concern about global warming.
Figure 1.d reveals whether students worry about the issue of global warming or not. According to the graph, 61% students said that they fairly concern about global warming.
Figure 2.a Student travel choices.
Figure 2.a indicates the types of transport that students use most frequently, comparing males and females. It can be gathered from the data that the numbers of males in categories of 'Car/Motorbike', 'Bicycle' and 'Bus' are always higher than that for females. However, more females choose foot as the most frequent way of travel than males, with 41% for the former and 27% for the latter.
Figure 2.b Environmental factors in choosing types of transport.
Figure 2.b illustrates the influence of environmental factors in transport chosen by students. As can be seen from the graph, there are only two respondents (one male and one female) that consider environmental factor as the most important reason when choosing the way of travel. On the other hand, the number of students who do not care about environment in their decisions is as high as 13 males and 11 females.
Figure 3.a Behaviour after using computer.
Figure 3.a provides information about the actions male and female students take after using their computers. It can be easily seen that majority of both males and females (14 males and 17 females) turns their computers off whereas a small number of respondents (2 males and 3 females) leave their computers on after finishing their work.
Figure 3.b Behaviour after using heater or air conditioning.
Figure 3.b indicates what interviewees do with their heater or air conditioning when they go out. It is clear that all females turn off these devices after leaving their rooms. On the other hand, those are left on by three male students.
Figure 4 Opinions about governments' reaction to global warming.
Figure 4 indicates opinions as to whether governments are doing enough to mitigate global warming, comparing students from developing and developed countries. More students (14) from developed countries than students (12) from developing countries think that the reactions of their governments are insufficient.
Figure 5.a Solutions suggested by students from developed countries.
Figure 5.a provides information about the solutions for global warming and the priorities suggested by students from developed countries. According to the graph, the highest number of respondents (41%) supposes 'Consuming less fossil fuel' as being the first solution should be implemented, contrasted with 36% students who consider 'Using clean energy' as the lowest priority.
Figure 5.b Solutions suggested by students from developing countries.
Figure 5.b provides information about the solutions for global warming and the priorities suggested by students from developing countries. 'Planting more trees' and 'Improving awareness of people' are chosen by most students as the most important solutions with 10 for the former and 9 for the latter. On the other hand, 7 students vote for 'Using clean energy' and the same number for 'Consuming less fossil fuel' as being the lowest priority.
III. MAJOR FINDINGS
The majority of interviewees believe that the global warming is a real problem whereas a few interviewees express that this is an unreal problem.
Most female students have chosen walking as their main means of transport, while male students have chosen by car/motorbike as their principal transport.
Both genders are very conscious about their energy habits and avoid unnecessary expenditure of energy.
An almost equal percentage of the students from developing and developed countries think that their governments do not enough effort to mitigate global warming.
Most students from developed countries think that the main solution to reduce global warming is consuming less fossil fuel whereas most students from developing countries consider that the principal solution is planting more trees.
Global warming understood by students
Figure 1.a shows that the number of interviewees that consider global warming as a real issue is as high as 86%. On the other hand, only 5% interviewees do not believe the issue of global warming. Besides, 9% respondents respond that they have no idea about this issue.
As shown on Figure 1.b, almost 57% of interviewees choose both human activities and natural phenomena as being the reasons for global warming compared with about 36% and 5% of those who vote for 'Human activities' and 'Natural phenomena' respectively.
From Figure 1.c, it can be easily seen that approximately three-fifths respondents suppose that all of extreme weather, bad effects on human health, rising sea levels and effects on the environment are the consequences of global warming.
According to Figure 1.d, approximately one-fifth students interviewed say that they are very worried about the issue of global warming and the same proportion for interviewees who are not worried at all. On the other hand, three-fifths are a little bit concerned about this issue.
Nowadays, global warming is not a new issue in the world. Many scientists and even politicians are trying to convince people about the existence of global warming and its negative effects. Therefore, "Global warming" appeals everywhere, including television, newspaper and magazine, at any time. Even in school, global warming also becomes an interesting topic to discuss. Thus, that might explain why most students in this research have certain knowledge about global warming. However, just a small number of interviewees really have concern about global warming. It might be because they do not realize the bad effects of global warming or global warming is affecting other parts of the world that is far from their homes.
Transport preference by students
As can be indicated from Figure 2.a, a significant number of females (41%) choose foot as being the basic way of travel whereas that number for males is just ca. 27%. On the other hand, almost 32% male students have travelled by cars or motorbikes most frequently compared with 27% females choosing this kind of transport. This might be because women consider walking as the best way to keep their bodies fit and healthy whereas men particularly like doing more heavy exercises, such as going to gym.
Figure 2.b notices that environmental factors are not influential in choosing the means of travel by most students from both genders with 59% males and 50% females. Only one male and one female, accounting for 5%, consider the environment as the most important factor to choose this option of transport. In fact, students care more about other factors rather than the environment, for example, the convenience and the cost of transport. This is likely because these factors affect directly their budgets or health.
Students' habits of using energy
Figure 3.a illustrates what students do with their computer when they go out. The majority of both males (63%) and females (73%) have turned off the computer and just a few of interviewees have hibernated or left it on when they go out. It might because nowadays students are more well-educated than before and they know what they should do to save energy. In addition, it is well-known that turning off the computer after using it avoids failures and damage in the internal hardware structure.
Figure 3.b shows that all women respondents turn off the heater or air conditioning when they go out. As the Figure 3.b indicates, more than 86% of men have the same choice. The reason why females do it better than males might be because the personality. It is generally believe that females are more careful about the little details than males. This result was surprising as it was expected that males would be more concern about the energy saving habits.
Students' opinion relating to government behavior toward to global warming
According to Figure 4, 55% students from developing countries and 64% those from developed countries consider the reactions of their governments to mitigate the global warming are not enough. Moreover, the same number of the respondents (36%) from developing and developed countries having no ideas about their governments' reaction to reduce the global warming.
It can be inferred from Figure 4 that the majority of interviewees are unsatisfied with their government whether they are from developing or developed countries. It might be because they think their governments do not have useful means to mitigate global warming. Another reason might be there is not enough technological development to slow down the global warming. It was unpredicted as the students from developed counties are more unsatisfied with their government than that from developing countries. It seems that students in developed countries have a high requirement of government's reaction rather than the other group. Through this result, it is necessary for the government to take effective measures to change the image for students.
Possible solutions suggested by students
It can be noticed from Figures 5.a and 5.b that students from developing countries have suggested as their first choice of possible solution 'Planting more trees', instead of the other student categories('Using clean energy' and 'Improving awareness of people'), which developed countries students have proposed 'Consuming less fossil fuel' as their first choice. In addition, 41% of students from developing countries and 32% of those who from developed countries choose improving awareness of people as their second important solution.
As indicated in Figure 5.a and 5.b, the reasons that interviewees from affluent countries choose 'Using less fossil fuel' as their first priority is probably because among those students are very common to have a private car. It is general believed that fossil fuel is a non-renewable resource, thus an increasing in the consumption of fuel generates higher prices in it. As the car owners, the students from affluent countries are more concerned about this solution. In contrast, students from developing countries vote 'Planting more trees' as their first solution. It can be inferred from this data that several developing countries have some serious deforestation problems, so the possible solution suggested by their students is related to protect the national environment. The governments should consider those solutions that students suggested and combined with their national conditions to reduce effectively global warming.
It can be concluded that the global warming is a well-known issue among the students of the University of Otago, but there are some differences between females and males with respect on their means of transport and their related impacts on the natural environment, such as males' preference for Car/Motorbike. In general, both genders seem to be responsible about their energy expenditure and it can be predicted that this trend will continue in the future, because students and societies are exposed to advertising awareness on energy saving made by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and some governments. It was unexpected that almost the same quantity of students from developed and developing countries believe that their governments are not making sufficient efforts to prevent the global warming. This could be due to lack of visible results in this matter and the non-ratification of the Kyoto Protocol -- one of the most important protocols to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases -- by the largest pollutant countries, such as the United States, China and India. Finally, Different solutions for this problem were proposed by a great number of students from developed (Consuming less fossil fuels) and developing countries (Planting more trees).
This preliminary research highlights important aspects of the students understanding about global warming. The results show that students from developed and developing countries also hold some unclear conceptions and misunderstandings about global warming. With regard to this, more research on this topic should be focused at university and school to help design public policy for mitigating global warming.
Bord, R., Fisher, A., & O´Connor, R. (1998). Public perceptions of global warming: United States and international perspectives. Climate Research, 11, 75-84.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2007). Climate change 2007: The physical science basis-Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from IPCC Website: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html
Kerr, S.C., & Walz, K.A. (2007). "Holes" in Student Understanding: Addressing Prevalent Misconceptions Regarding Atmospheric Environmental Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 84(10), 1693-1696.
United Nations Environment Program. (2007). Global outlook for ice and snow. Birkenland, Norway: Birkenland Trykkeri A/S.
Opinions concerning Global Warming
Purpose of this survey
This survey is part of the University of Otago Language Centre English for Otago Course. It aims to investigate the attitudes of students at the University of Otago towards the issue of global warming. The information in this questionnaire is completely anonymous and confidential.
Thank you for your involvement. Please answer all of the questions below.
Gender: Male / Female (please circle)
Do you think that global warming is a real problem? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Yes ƒ¿ No ƒ¿ Don't know
What is the cause of global warming? (please tick one)
Both of the above
In your opinion, which of the following actions could contribute to global warming? (please tick one)
Driving a car
Both of the above
None of the above
Which of the following alternatives could be a consequence of global warming? (please tick one)
More extreme weather
Effect on human health
Sea level rise
Effect on environment
How worried are you about global warming? (please circle one)
Very worried Somewhat worried Not at all worried
1 2 3
What type of transport do you use most frequently? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Car/Motorbike ƒ¿ Bicycle ƒ¿ Bus ƒ¿ Foot
Why do you choose that transport? (Rank in order of importance from 1-4 with 1 for the most important reason and 4 for the least important reason)
Convenient Cheap Healthy Environmentally-friendly
What do you usually do after using your computer? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Turn it off ƒ¿ Hibernate/Sleep ƒ¿ Leave it on
Do you usually turn off your heater or air conditioning when leaving the room? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Yes ƒ¿ No
Do you think your government is doing enough to mitigate (reduce) global warming? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Yes ƒ¿ No ƒ¿ Don't know
Which solutions would you suggest in priority to mitigate (reduce) global warming?
(Rank in order of priority from 1-4 with 1 being the highest priority and 4 being the lowest priority)
Using clean energy (wind and solar energy)
Planting more trees
Improving awareness of people about global warming
Consuming less fossil fuel (oil and coal)
Could you change any of your behaviors that may be contributing to global warming? (please tick one)
ƒ¿ Yes ƒ¿ No ƒ¿ Not sure
Thank you for your time