Climate change continues to be an issue that generates a lot of discussion globally. With various initiatives, protocols and declaration being set out to avert the consequences of an unchecked environment usage, the factors that contribute to knowledge and awareness of climate change will present an area of study to academicians. Studies carried out among students have continued to s how that the level of knowledge and climate change awareness seems to be varied. This study proposes to identify significant factors that relate to the level of climate change awareness and knowledge among Malaysian students through a linear regression analysis. A review of previous studies has shown that sex/gender, level of education and income, social status continues to be significant effects of climate change among students. Application of these results can be used to develop policies, educational curriculum and strategic education programs that address the issues of climate change and awareness levels.
Climate change has become a hot subject of great and intense debate over the past few years. This has mainly been so as climate change does affect a wide range of aspects of our life’s, from the place we choose to leave, to the clothes we wear and homes we build climate change has had a great impact. It has affected our politics, economic policies and social outlooks of life. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change as (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007):
”A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.”
On the other hand, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007):
“…a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”
Both definitions point towards there being a change in the partner of the climate within a region and over an extended period of time with variability being due to ‘natural activities’ or ‘human activities’. Over the past 650,000 years the earth’s climate has gone through seven cycles of glacial advances and retreats, with significant changes being attributed ‘to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives’. However current warming trend has been of significant importance as it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years (Jenkins, 2010).
The diversity and complexity of the Earth’s environment (Climate, atmosphere) makes it prone to changes and influences from various sources/factors. From massive sun events to growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, environmental changes are evident. Despite all this changes which can be deemed as ‘natural occurrences’ the greatest influencers has been shown to be man-made actions. Actions such as increased levels of greenhouse gases due to human activities have resulted in an increase in the warming of the earth’s atmosphere (increased temperatures) (Page, 2007). Between 1906 and 2005, the global average surface temperature rose from 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.1 to 1.6?? F) with the rate of temperature having doubled in the last 5 years (Riebeek, 2010). A lack of awareness to such issues will results in increasingly serious consequences such as ice cap melting.
1.1. Problem statement and Objectives
Although various studies have been carried out to understand the levels of climate change knowledge and awareness among specific groups of students (Aminrad, Azizi, Wahab, Huron, & Nawawi, 2010), (Thang & Kumarasamy, 2006) within Malaysia, the extent of general awareness among the Malaysian students population still lacks a comprehensive study that will gauge the level of awareness among the students in Malaysia. Key to understanding this level of awareness is the assessment of the student’s population with regards to key factors of Human-environment relationship, a willingness to pay to protect the environment and creation of a positive environmental attitude. This study proposes to study the level of awareness of climate change based on the three stated factors. Consequently, the key objectives of this study are:
To develop a conceptual framework that analysis the level of climate change awareness among Malaysian students in general
To develop a correlation between climate change awareness and Human-environment relationship, a willingness to pay to protect the environment and creation of a positive environmental attitude among Malaysian students
1.2. Climate Change Awareness
In a study done in Jamaica by The Planning Institutes of Jamaica, over 82.6% of people surveyed have heard of ‘climate change’. Additional 49.5 % of respondents were concerned about climate change with 31.2% having a moderate view about climate change, while 14 % were not concerned (The Planning Institute of Jamaica 2012)
The question that then comes to mind is, ‘Is the same trend applicable within the Malaysia Student population in terms of Climate Change awareness’? This paper proposes a conceptual framework that intends to look at this issue. The framework developed proposes to address the issue of awareness among the Malaysian student population in relation to climate change by address key factors of the Human-Environment relationship, a willingness to pay to protect the environment and having a positive attitude towards the environment.
In 1996, an initiative, the eco-labeling program, on consumer awareness on the environment was launched by Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM). This focused on provision of labels on products according to environmental criteria such as Environmentally Degradable, Non-toxic Plastic Packaging Material, Hazardous Metal-Free Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Biodegradable Cleaning Agents and Recycled Paper(Rashid, 2009). The results of a study by Rashid (2009) showed a positive reaction towards eco-labeling by the Malaysian consumer. This reflects positively towards a positive attitude that the Malaysian consumer has towards the environment, in that they are willing to consider the environment as a factor when making any purchase. A similar study by Guagnano (2001) showed altruism as a motivating factor for willingness to pay for recycled paper products.
Climate change regulation continues to be an issue of discourse among countries and business globally. Regulation of green house gases and CO2 emissions continues to be issues that generate a lot of views that are divergent. Polonsky, Miles, and Grau (2011), suggest four issues that must be addressed in any climate change regulatory scheme. They include scope-relates to management of emissions systems as either global or regional, who pays-who will be responsible for the cost incurred due to emissions, end user or supply chain, market or compliance-based mechanisms and criteria. Simonis (2011), proposes that there lies a need to ‘green ‘urban development for both mitigation and adaption activities as cities continue to be key source and drivers of climate change.
In their study, Solomon, Solomon, Norton, and Joseph (2011), identified private climate change reporting as an area of discourse among institutions. They view this type of reporting as being dominated by risk and risk management. Furthermore, they identified private climate change reporting among institutions as a way of compensating for the ‘acknowledged inadequacies of public climate change reporting’. Although response to issues of climate change continue to be diverse, transition economies face the hard task of developing ‘green economies’ for continued growth and ‘inclusive development without sacrificing the optimal rate of growth’ (Ray, 2013) .
2. Framework Concept Development
2.1. Positive Environment Attitude
An accepted notion within the field of environmental education is that the end goal is to influence behavior. Environmental attitudes are normally perceived as prerequisites for attaining environmental behavior (Eilam & Trop, 2012). These attitudes are conceptualized in terms of attitude theory as being composed of beliefs and influences toward an entity. Description of the environment as an entity is challenging and this has repercussion for the study of general environmental attitudes. Attitudes are based on values, they have a vertical and horizontal structure and tend to be general to specific(Heberlein & Madison, 2010)
In a study done among secondary school students in Malaysia, it was concluded that a high level of environmental awareness and knowledge plus a positive attitude among the students stemmed from family situations, teachers, media, private reading and school curriculums(Z. Aminrad, Zakariya, & Sakari, 2013).
A similar replication of the results was found through a study done among Iranian students in Malaysian Universities. The study showed that although the sample pooled showed moderate environmental awareness, the same group had a high environmental attitude. Difference in education level had a significant difference with regards to environmental awareness. The age groups analysis results revealed significant difference in environmental awareness and attitude. It was also found that the media positively affected the level of environmental awareness and attitude among students. The study concluded that increase on age and level of education would improve the level of awareness and attitude regarding to environmental issues(Aminrad et al., 2010).
Factors to consider: Education level, Age and Gender as determinants of a positive environment attitude towards climate change
2.2. Willingness to Pay (WTP)
In the US, economic prosperity and environmental quality are widely regarded as two of the Nation’s most important goals (Schmalensee, 1996). However a common conventional wisdom that has increasingly been challenged is that of economic growth begets environmental degradation. It is estimated that US$150 billion is spent annual as expenditure for environmental protection; this translates to 2% of the Nations GDP(Morgenstern, Pizer, & Shih, 1998).
Incidentally some view these two as competing goals and argue that economic growth begets environmental dilapidation, however an emergent view is that the two are complimentary. Economic growth provides organizations with capacity to spend more on environmental protection; the willingness to pay more to protect the environment is possible (Schmalensee, 1996). It is no coincidence that the wealthy societies are the ones that are both willing and able to devote substantial resources to environmental protection. A study done by Kramer and Mercer on the U.S. Residents’ WTP to Protect Tropical Rain Forests showed respondents are willing to pay on average one-time payment of approximately $21-31 per house-hold and an additional 5 percent for tropical forests(Kramer & Mercer, 1997).
Other factors that have contributed significantly to a WTP for the protection of the environment range from the risk perceptions regarding the dangers of global warming, having a tertiary education and holding post-materialist value orientations all increase the willingness to pay for environmental protection(Ivanova & Tranter, 2008).
Individual characteristics are also instrumental in determining the WTP. In their study, Israel and Levinson were able to identify a strong relationship between an individual’s characteristics such as age, income and education and there marginal willingness to pay to protect the environment, but little evidence that MWTP varies systematically with economic growth. (Israel & Levinson, 2004)
Factors to consider: Level of education, age, income and social status as determinants that affect ones willingness to pay to protect the environment.
2.3. Human-Environment Relationship
Modern lifestyles demand the exploitation of natural resources, which results in a significantly deteriorated living environment. The majority of people (or more than half, in this case) supports environmental protection in principle, especially in word only, because this is also socially desirable. However, when they must address limitations that would interfere with their lives by limiting activities or increasing costs, their enthusiasm abates quickly. Twenty percent of people can be defined as being in favor of environmental protection and regarding it as a value.
Education level plays a very important role in people’s behavior towards environmental issues. Modern development demands a high cost due to the excessive exploitation of natural resources, which is reflected in a significantly lower quality of the living environment. The environmental issues of modern civilization have social and anthropological origins. People stand out not merely as their cause, but ultimately as their victims as well(Smrekar, 2011)
Human-Environment relationship can be traced back to back to the start of civilization; from the moment humans started utilizing the environment to better their life. With this interaction came the adverse consequences of environment degradation. A look at the earth’s temperature over the past hundreds of years has seen a gradual rise with a sharp increase in the earth’s temperature occurring over the past few years. The result of this increase has been catastrophic with adverse weather conditions.
A grasp of the fundamental changes and the consequences of climate change are needed. Climate change awareness is not enough on its own but needs reinforce with knowledge about it. A study carried out to show the level of environmental knowledge and perceived environmental behavior among students in a local university in Malaysia indicated that although the level of awareness with regards to environmental issues was high, there was a gap in the understanding of basic terms and concepts with regards to the environment (Siti , Nurita, & Azlina, 2010).
Factors to consider: Educational and Income level, sex/gender and social status as determinants of awareness to climate change.
Various factors continue to be key drivers in the growth of the Malaysian economy. Awareness of climate change and its results continue to be an area that needs further study. Development of economic policies and regulations that address economic growth and climate change awareness continue to be of strategic importance in the advancement of a countries economy.
Development of these strategies also requires a society that is aware of how climate change affects them and their society. This goes directly to development of youth and in general a populous that is aware of this issue. One area that has the greatest impact towards this is the student population.
Development of curricula that incorporates the issue of climate change knowledge and awareness is of importance. Thus more studies need to be done to provide information on the level of awareness among the Malaysian students thus enabling policy makers and regulators develop strategic plans on how to transfer climate change knowledge.
3. Framework Concept
The concept developed addresses the issue of climate change awareness among Malaysian Students by performing a liner regression analysis (LRA). Figure 1 below presents the basic concept framework developed for the study.
Figure 1: Climate Change Concept Framework Model
Theoretically, adding value to a product involves increasing the level of worth or awareness of the product. By doing this the overall impact of the product to the end user is seen as being positive. To this end the level of climate change awareness among Malaysian students can be significantly increased by developing a clear relationship between factors that affect the levels of awareness. A correlation of this factor would eventual show which factors are significant and worth pursuing and vice versa. The study adds value by providing additional information from a general view on the level of climate change among the Malaysian students population.
It is assumed at this stage that the three factors that affect the level of awareness among the students are as shown in Figure 1 above. Proof of the significance of these factors can be done by developing hypothesis that can be tested. Three key hypothesis are developed based on this framework:
H1: Education level, Age and Gender play a significant role in creating a positive environmental attitude and awareness towards climate change among malaysian students
H2: Level of income, education and social status play a significant role towards the willingness to pay to protect the environment among malaysian students.
H3: Level of Education, social status , gender and income level play a significant role among malaysian students with regards to their Human-enviroment relationship.
4. Practical Implications
Although climate change continues to be a topic of intense discussion, understanding the level of climate knowledge and awareness among studies still needs to be studied further. Overall implications of such studies will result in identifying gaps of knowledge and awareness with ultimate goal of developing an informed society of young people. Within the Malaysian context, a gap lies in understanding the awareness levels of students, and this study proposes to fill that gap by trying to establish a link on the level of climate change awareness and key determinants of having a positive environmental attitude, possessing a willingness to pay to protect the environment and the human environment relationship.
By addressing issues such as educational level, gender, income bracket and social status, this study proposes a comprehensive study that will focus on the key demography of Malaysia students. The level of knowledge is crucial as this enables the development of policies that affect education, cultural integration and ‘
Climate change has become and will continue to be an issue of discourse with divergent views. The level of awareness and knowledge among students is an area that needs further empirical studies. A relationship between the level of willingness to pay to protect the environment, the Human-environment and creating a positive environment attitude and how it relates to climate change awareness, within the Malaysian student context, continues to generate a lot of interest. These factors are further affected by the level of education, income status, and gender of the population under study. It is hoped that the knowledge obtained here can further the understanding of the awareness level of climate change among students in Malaysia. Application of these results can be used to develop policies, educational curriculum and strategic education programs that address the issues of climate change and awareness levels.
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