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The Effect of Climate Change on Natural Disasters: A College Student Perspective

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Abstract

Climate change is currently a topic of debate that is discussed not only within the physical science community but also by those in policy. Outside of these communities lies the American public, often not seeking out climate change research, but rather ingesting information interpreted by a third party, most likely through a political lens. Given the increased attention to natural disasters, one area of concern is the possible relationship between climate change and natural disasters. An assessment of the public’s opinion on this relationship has seen minimal research and none regarding college students. College students are a unique subset of the populace for their age, media sensitivity, and possible future in policy or research. This study surveyed college students in geography courses at Kent State University regarding their opinion of the effect of climate change on various natural disasters, while given examples of recently occurring natural disasters. The natural disasters included both atmospheric-related and nonatmospheric-related phenomena. The results show similar responses for those natural disasters that are atmospheric related. However, disparities exist between atmospheric-related and nonatmospheric-related natural disasters, illustrating a lack of knowledge between climate change and nonatmospheric natural disasters, especially tsunamis. Finally, females were found more likely to agree with the effect of climate change on natural disasters, while males were more likely to disagree.

Corresponding author address: Melissa Phillips, Department of Geography, Kent State University, 413 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242. E-mail: mkoeka@kent.edu

Abstract

Climate change is currently a topic of debate that is discussed not only within the physical science community but also by those in policy. Outside of these communities lies the American public, often not seeking out climate change research, but rather ingesting information interpreted by a third party, most likely through a political lens. Given the increased attention to natural disasters, one area of concern is the possible relationship between climate change and natural disasters. An assessment of the public’s opinion on this relationship has seen minimal research and none regarding college students. College students are a unique subset of the populace for their age, media sensitivity, and possible future in policy or research. This study surveyed college students in geography courses at Kent State University regarding their opinion of the effect of climate change on various natural disasters, while given examples of recently occurring natural disasters. The natural disasters included both atmospheric-related and nonatmospheric-related phenomena. The results show similar responses for those natural disasters that are atmospheric related. However, disparities exist between atmospheric-related and nonatmospheric-related natural disasters, illustrating a lack of knowledge between climate change and nonatmospheric natural disasters, especially tsunamis. Finally, females were found more likely to agree with the effect of climate change on natural disasters, while males were more likely to disagree.

Corresponding author address: Melissa Phillips, Department of Geography, Kent State University, 413 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242. E-mail: mkoeka@kent.edu
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