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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Forest Owners' Response to Climate Change: University Education Trumps Value Profile

Blennow, Kristina; Persson, Johannes; Persson, Erik; Hanewinkel, Marc


Do forest owners' levels of education or value profiles explain their responses to climate change? The cultural cognition thesis (CCT) has cast serious doubt on the familiar and often criticized "knowledge deficit" model, which says that laypeople are less concerned about climate change because they lack scientific knowledge. Advocates of CCT maintain that citizens with the highest degrees of scientific literacy and numeracy are not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, this is the group in which cultural polarization is greatest, and thus individuals with more limited scientific literacy and numeracy are more concerned about climate change under certain circumstances than those with higher scientific literacy and numeracy. The CCT predicts that cultural and other values will trump the positive effects of education on some forest owners' attitudes to climate change. Here, using survey data collected in 2010 from 766 private forest owners in Sweden and Germany, we provide the first evidence that perceptions of climate change risk are uncorrelated with, or sometimes positively correlated with, education level and can be explained without reference to cultural or other values. We conclude that the recent claim that advanced scientific literacy and numeracy polarizes perceptions of climate change risk is unsupported by the forest owner data. In neither of the two countries was university education found to reduce the perception of risk from climate change. Indeed in most cases university education increased the perception of risk. Even more importantly, the effect of university education was not dependent on the individuals' value profile.


Climate change response, climate change adaptation, climate change, scientific literacy, forest owner, forest

Published in

2016, volume: 11, number: 5, article number: e0155137
Publisher: Public Library of Science

Authors' information

Persson, Johannes
Lund University
Persson, Erik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management
Hanewinkel, Marc
University of Freiburg

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action
SDG4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Environmental Sciences
Climate Research

Publication Identifiers


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