Public Opinion on Climate Change in Rural America: A Potential Barrier to Resilience

Olson-Hazboun, Shawn K.; Howe, Peter D.

Public opinion on climate change at the local level is a highly relevant component of understanding community resilience to climate change. Skepticism about climate change and the severity of its consequences can be a barrier to effective climate planning and adaptive capacity building. In this chapter, the authors analyze public opinion survey data on climate change in rural counties nationwide. They find that, overall, rural areas have slightly less concern about climate change than urban areas, as well as slightly lower rates of belief that climate change is happening and that it is human-caused. Interestingly, they find broad support for certain mitigation policies – levels of support that are higher than the concern about climate change alone. They review some possible explanations for these trends, as well as implications for rural leaders and practitioners working to build climate resilience in rural communities.