Podcast by Olivia Keck and Matthew Heldman

Tape Log Index of Sound Bites

TRT (2:01)

Wesley Longhofer (0:32) and (0:54)

Emory University Professor, Sociology 

John Wegner (1:15) and (1:38)

Emory University Professor, Environmental Science




What do Russia, Malaysia and Japan have in common? They are all countries with over a 32% gap between people who think climate change is a serious problem and people who want to do something about it. This PEW 2015 study has told us that assuming that just because someone agrees climate change is a threat doesn’t mean that they are making changes to their habits.

We sat down with Dr. Wesley Longhofer, an environmental sociologist from Emory University, to talk to us about understanding this gap.


How does the concept of risk perception pertain to how people view climate change?

SOUNDBITE (0:13) Wesley Longhofer, Emory University Professor, Sociology 

There’s an increasing awareness of climate change as a problem, but that there’s varying levels of perceptions of risk. Part of it is about our geographic location. It’s also wrapped up in things like levels of development and education.


Besides the varying threat level that climate change poses to populations in different locations, having no simple solution is another obstacle that prevents people from knowing how to change their habits.

SOUNDBITE (0:17) Wesley Longhofer, Emory University Professor, Sociology 

And so what we see in the US is, especially with climate change deniers, is what psychologists call solution diversion. That is, we interpret the problem of climate change through the available solutions there are to solve that problem. We don’t typically think of problems this way–that solutions cloud our perception of the problem– but they do all the time.


Ecologist Dr. John Wegner discusses the role of policy makers

SOUNDBITE (0:19) John Wegner, Emory University Professor, Environmental Science

I think policy is more important is at things that are beyond the control of individual consumers. There’s pretty good evidence that policy and regulations– even at the state level– have an important impact on greenhouse gases.


Dr. Wegner says he feels the climate action gap in his personal life

SOUNDBITE (0:11) John Wegner, Emory University Professor, Environmental Science

Everybody that I associate outside the university accepts the reality of climate change, most of them don’t do a… single thing… about it.


Environmentalists spend time and energy convincing those doubtful of climate science. We’ve learned that efforts might be better concentrated on people who understand climate change is a threat but aren’t taking action.