Are individuals' interpretations and political action regarding climate change impacted by materialist/post-materialist values in different contexts?

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


My research will be concerned with the issue of climate change in the 21st
century. Polls in 2019 have shown the as much as 85% of the British
population are 'concerned' about climate change, and 52% say they are 'very
concerned' (Ipsos Mori, 2019). Furthermore, the same poll indicated that 89%
of the middle-class respondents indicated concern. These numbers raise
several different questions with regards to explaining these shifts. Firstly, is an
increased concern with climate change related to the development of postmaterialist
values amongst the British electorate? Are the variations between
social classes significant, especially in the context of the 2008 financial crisis?
The issue of climate change is particularly interesting as its position as
'materialist' or 'post-materialist' is unclear - especially with regards to people's
subjective reasons for believing it is an issue of concern. How do perceptions
as to the actual threat of climate change map on to individual's desire to stop
it? These questions will be explored within countries with varied geographies,
Britain, Australia and Canada, in order to develop a clearer picture of the
sociology of environmental values, and how they vary across different
I will focus upon the issue of climate change in particular as the line between
post-materialism and materialism is blurred in such a way that direct questions
pertaining to the physical threats posed by climate change can be considered
specifically alongside the perspectives relating to the degradation of natural
and human environments. I am interested in exploring the potential
differentiation between countries in different part of the word, with different
environments and eco-systems and where climate change is likely to often
engender disparate effects. Literature focusing predominantly on climate
change and post-materialism is out there. Vainio & Paloniemi (2011) focused
on Finland, analyzing the factors that drive people to engage in action
purposed with mitigating climate change, such as "choosing climate friendly
transportation, reducing consumption or recycling", with one variable being
post-materialist values. They conclude that while post-materialist values are
not a predictor of climate action directly, they are important contributors to the
"mediating role of belief in climate change," which is a strong predictor of
action (Vainio & Paloneimi, 2011: p390.
My research will take a slightly different approach, and attempt to map out
individual's perspectives on climate change, its perceived threats and their
reasons for concern, alongside an analysis of what kinds of action they deem
to be most important to tackling it, and seeing whether the are clear
relationships between specific values and specific interpretations and actions
surrounding the political issue of climate change.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2434601 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2020 30/03/2025 Richard Owen SAUNDERS