Public understanding of global climate change in Malawi : an investigation of factors influencing perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about global climate change

Bakuwa, Japhet (2015-04)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is informed by both the deficit/positivist and contextual/critical models for doing public understanding of science (PUS) research and seeks to investigate factors that influence the perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards climate change in Malawi. Previous research on the public understanding of climate change conducted in the United States of America (USA) and Europe suggest that people‘s beliefs, perceptions and attitudes do influence support for both voluntary and policy initiatives to address climate change and adaption to it. However, it is equally important to understand the factors that influence public perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards climate change. An investigation into these factors provides an understanding and appreciation of the contextual issues related to the public assimilation and renegotiation of climate change information, as well as the support or rejection of initiatives aimed at addressing climate change. Sub-Saharan African countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change because their national economies and populations depend on rain-fed agriculture. Malawi is no exception. The majority of the Malawian population (at least 85%) live in rural areas and depend on subsistence, rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, and are therefore more vulnerable to climate change. Furthermore, Malawi‘s economy is agro-based (agriculture comprises about 36% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 85% of exports earnings and 84% of total employment). On the basis of these facts, I hypothesised that the perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of Malawians towards climate change are influenced by a wide range of factors, including the impact of climate change on livelihoods. More specifically, I proposed that more rural inhabitants than urban residents were likely to agree that their livelihood has been negatively affected by climate change, and would also be more willing to take voluntary action to address climate change. Upon performing chi-square analyses of the responses, the results indicate that: (i) significantly more rural (91%) than urban inhabitants (51%) agree that their livelihood has been negatively affected by climate change, and (ii) significant higher proportions of the rural population have at some point taken voluntary action to address climate change Multinomial logistic regression models predicted the perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of Malawians towards climate change. The results show that location is the only predictor of whether an individual would agree that his/her livelihood has been negatively affected by climate change or not. Rural inhabitants are 6.5 times more likely than urban residents to agree that their livelihood has been negatively affected by climate change. Location is also a predictor of the belief that climate change and its impact is the will of God; the belief that the solution to climate change rests with God; and how certain or uncertain a person is regarding the effects of climate change. Binary logistic regression results show that location is also the strongest predictor of whether an individual would take a voluntary action to address climate change or not. Rural inhabitants are 2.3 times more likely than urban residents to take voluntary action to address climate change. Besides place of residence, other predictors of perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards climate change are: level of education (predictor of three outcome variables, namely: how certain or uncertain a person is about the causes of climate change; whether an individual believes that climate change and its impact is the will of God or not; and whether an individual believes that the solution to the problem of climate change rests with God or not); environmental groups and institutions of learning as sources of information about climate change (predictors of how certain or uncertain a person is about the causes of climate change, and whether a person believes that climate change and its impact is the will of God or not, respectively); and the trustworthiness of village headmen as a source of information about climate change (predictor of whether an individual will believe that climate change and its impact is the will of God or not; and whether an individual will take personal initiative to address climate change). These findings affirm the hypothesis that the impact of climate change on livelihoods of Malawians living in rural locations influences their perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards climate change. Additionally, the findings suggest that public education about climate change remains key to promoting understanding of climate change. The Government of Malawi and non-governmental organisations have to take up this challenge of educating the Malawian public about climate change, particularly those living in rural locations. However, public education of climate change in Malawi demands that we also take into account the contextual factors that influence Malawians‘ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards climate change. For future research, the study suggests that more research in Sub-Saharan Africa is warranted to unearth the contextual factors that influence the public understanding of climate change.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie inkorporeer insigte uit onderskeidelik die tekortskietende/positiwistiese en kontekstuele/kritiese modelle rakende die openbare verstaan van wetenskapsnavorsing, in ‘n poging om die faktore wat die persepsies, oortuigings en houdings teenoor klimaatsverandering in Malawi beïnvloed te ondersoek. Vorige navorsing oor die openbare begrip van klimaatsverandering – wat in die Verenigde State van Amerika (VSA) en Europa uitgevoer is – dui daarop dat individuele persepsies, oortuigings en houdings ‘n invloed uitoefen op die ondersteuning vir beide vrywillige sowel as beleidsinisiatiewe in klimaatsverandering. Dit is egter van groot belang om die faktore wat openbare persepsies, oortuigings en houdings teenoor klimaatsverandering beïnvloed te verstaan. ʼn Ondersoek na hierdie faktore verskaf begrip sowel as waardering vir die kontekstuele kwessies wat verband hou met die openbare assimilasie en ―heronderhandeling‖ van inligting oor klimaatsverandering. So ‘n ondersoek dra ook by tot ‘n verduideliking waarom voorgestelde klimaatsveranderingsinisiatiewe òf verwerp òf ondersteun word. Lande in sub-Sahara Afrika, waaronder Malawi, is baie kwesbaar vir die gevolge van klimaatsverandering as gevolg van die aard van hul ekonomieë en die samelewing se afhanklikheid van nie-besproeiingslandbou. Die Malawiese bevolking is grotendeels landelik (ten minste 85%) en maak staat op nie-besproeiingsbestaansboerdery, wat hulle dus meer kwesbaar maak vir die gevolge van klimaatsverandering. Malawi se ekonomie is boonop landbou-gedrewe: landbou dra by tot ongeveer 36% van die BBP, tot 85% van inkomste uit uitvoere en tot 84% van totale indiensnemingsgetalle. Gegewe hierdie feite is my hipotese dat die persepsies, oortuigings en houdings van Malawiërs teenoor klimaatsverandering deur talle uiteenlopende faktore beïnvloed word, waaronder die impak van klimaatsverandering op hul daaglikse bestaan. Die hipotese suggereer verder dat meer landelike inwoners, in teenstelling tot stedelike inwoners, geneig sal wees om saam te stem dat hul bestaan negatief deur klimaatsverandering beïnvloed word, en derhalwe ook ‘n groter gewilligheid sal openbaar tot vrywillige optrede wat klimaatsverandering aanspreek. Chi-kwadraat analises wat op die opnameresponse uitgevoer is, dui daarop dat (i) meer landelike (91%) as stedelike (51%) inwoners saamstem dat hul bestaan negatief deur klimaatsverandering beïnvloed word en dat (ii) ʼn beduidende hoër persentasie landelike inwoners op een of ander stadium vrywillig teen klimaatsverandering opgetree het. Multinomiale logistiese-regressiemodelle is gebruik om die persepsies, oortuigings en houdings van Malawiërs teenoor klimaatsverandering te voorspel. Die resultate toon dat ligging die enigste betekenisvolle voorspeller is in die uitkoms of ʼn individu saamstem dat sy/haar bestaan negatief deur klimaatsverandering beïnvloed word of nie – dit is 6.5 keer meer waarskynlik dat landelike as stedelike inwoners sal saamstem dat hul bestaan negatief deur klimaatsverandering beïnvloed word. Ligging dien ook as ʼn betekenisvolle voorspeller in drie verdere uitkomste, naamlik die oortuiging dat klimaatsverandering en die impak daarvan die wil van God is, die oortuiging dat die oplossing vir klimaatsverandering by God berus en hoe seker of onseker ʼn individu van sy/haar oortuiging is met betrekking tot die gevolge van klimaatsverandering. Volgens ‘n binêre logistiese-regressieanalise is ligging ook die sterkste voorspeller of ʼn individu vrywillig sal optree om klimaatsverandering aan te spreek, al dan nie. Dit is 2.3 keer meer waarskynlik dat landelike inwoners, in teenstelling met stedelike inwoners, vrywillig sal optree om klimaatsverandering aan te spreek. Agesien van ligging het die volgende ook na vore getree as bykomende voorspellers van individue se persepsies, oortuigings en houdings teenoor klimaatsverandering: (i) vlak van opvoeding (voorspeller van drie uitkomste-veranderlikes: hoe seker of onseker ʼn persoon is oor die oorsake van klimaatsverandering; of ʼn persoon glo dat klimaatsverandering en die gevolglike impak die wil van God is al dan nie; en of ʼn individu glo dat die oplossing vir klimaatsverandering by God berus al dan nie), (ii) die twee bronne van inligting rondom klimaatsverandering, naamlik omgewingsgroepe en opvoedingsinstellings, wat dien as voorspellers van hoe seker of onseker ʼn individu is oor die oorsake van klimaatsverandering, en of ʼn persoon glo dat klimaatsverandering en die gevolglike impak die wil van God is of nie; en (iii) die geloofwaardigheid van stamhoofde as ʼn bron van inligting oor klimaatsverandering (voorspeller van of ʼn persoon sal glo dat klimaatsverandering en die gevolglike impak die wil van God is of nie en of ʼn individu persoonlike inisiatief aan die dag sal lê om klimaatsverandering aan te spreek). Die bevindinge van die studie bevestig die voorgestelde hipotese dat die impak van klimaatsverandering op die bestaan van Malawiërs wat in landelike gebiede woon, ook hul persepsies, oortuigings en houdings teenoor klimaatsverandering beïnvloed. ʼn Verdere bevinding is dat openbare opvoeding oor klimaatsverandering ʼn sleutelrol in die bevordering van die begrip oor klimaatsverandering speel. Die uitdaging rus op die skouers van die Malawiese regering en nie-regeringsorganisasies om die Malawiese publiek, en veral diegene wat in landelike gebiede woon, oor klimaatsverandering op te voed. Die voorgestelde organisasies sal hulself egter nie van hul taak kan kwyt indien daar nie ʼn begrip is van die faktore wat Malawiërs se persepsies, oortuigings en houdings teenoor klimaatsverandering beïnvloed nie. Die studie beveel aan dat meer navorsing in sub-Sahara Afrika onderneem behoort te word om kontekstuele faktore wat die openbare begrip van klimaatsverandering beïnvloed, te identifiseer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96930
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