Climate change as a unique environmental problem

Janet K. Swim, Lorraine Whitmarsh

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

6 Citations (SciVal)


Several unique qualities associated with human-caused climate change require psychologists to expand their ways of thinking about environmental problems. Awareness and understanding of climate change has increased since the 1980s when it first entered public consciousness. The extent to which people understand climate change is also reflected in perceptions of the risk it entails. Many features of climate change and human psychological processes make climate change difficult to detect. Attributional ambiguity about the causes and impacts of climate change increases uncertainty and potential doubt about the impacts of climate change. Attributional ambiguity occurs when there are multiple plausible alternative explanations making it difficult to know which explanation is most valid. Accepting personal and collective responsibility are precursors to taking action to address climate change. Further, responsibility must be paired with personal and community resources that provide opportunities for individual and group actions necessary to address climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781119241072
ISBN (Print)9781119241089
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Attributional ambiguity
  • Climate change
  • Collective responsibility
  • Environmental problems
  • Group actions
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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