1.1 THE STUDY'S BACKGROUND
Climate change has evolved into an environmentally hazardous phenomenon. Concern and action by humans, who are identified as the primary cause and affected by the situation, is a successful technique for addressing the issue. Public acts are only possible if the tendency to behave and respond is stimulated. However, the presence of a lack of awareness about climate change makes explaining and eliciting people's expected action and concern about the issue considerably more challenging. This has the potential to undermine and derail efforts for adaptation and mitigation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “climate change has become a distinct and significant addition to the range of environmental dangers confronted by humanity.” The United Nations (UN, 2010) also observes that the worldwide goal of sustainable development is jeopardized due to the effects of climate change.
There is mounting evidence that most areas on the planet will be modified and lost as a result of climate change (Adger, Dessai, Marisa, Goulden, Hulme, Lorenzoni, Nelson, Naess,Wolf, Wreford, 2009). Humanity is consequently required to take immediate action to address this threat (IPCC, 2014).
Climate change refers to a shift in climate over time, usually a decade or more, caused by natural and/or human actions (UNFCCC 2007, IPCC 2007). Most scientists, including Eboh (2009), Anyadike (2009), and others, believe that
Hönisch, Ridgwell, Schmidt, Thomas, Samantha, Gibbs,…,Williams(2012); Ashton (2002), and scientific research institutions (Pew Centre on Global Climate Change PCGCC (2009), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, NOAA(2007), among others) have provided comparable meaning.
“There are several study findings and projections that support the occurrence of climate change.” For example, the International Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC, 2013) found that global temperature has risen by around 2.0 degrees Celsius over the previous 100 years; sea levels are rising; and severe occurrences such as heat waves, heavy rains, and disappearing Arctic sea ice are all occurring. The group also forecasts more dismal days ahead. Most scientists agree with these findings and projections (see Hönisch et al. 2012, National Research Council 2013, NOAA 2013).
Climate change is attributed to human activity in the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and Human Induced Theories of Climate Change (Blasts 2010). As a result, major efforts are required from humans to address concerns such as water stress, species extinction, low productivity, floods, food shortages, illnesses, and many more (WHO 2003, IPCC 2014).
Africa's previously existing non-climate change-induced underdevelopment is being exacerbated by the effects of climate change (UNFCCC 2007). Due to high poverty and reliance on rain-fed agriculture, Africa is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change (Dixon, Smith, and Guill (2013), “illiteracy, weak institutions, limited infrastructure, limited technology and information, poor access to resources, low management capabilities, land degradation, overexploitation of natural resources, overpopulation, and many others”) (UN 2010).
The effects of climate change in Africa have manifested in an alarming rate of diseases (Guernier, Hochberg, & Guegan2004; WHO 2004), water scarcity and stress (Ashton 2002), hunger (Fischer 2002), conflicts and wars (Harrus & Baneth, 2005; Ashton, 2002), drought and flooding (Few, Ahern, Matthies, & Kovats 2004; Nicholls 2004; McMichael (Boko, Niang, Nyong, Vogel, Githeko, Medany, Osman-Elasha, Tabo & Yanda, 2007).
Global attempts to combat climate change can be traced back a few decades. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established in 1992 to unite individual countries' efforts in order to achieve global synergy in the fight against climate change (UNFCCC 2014). Regional contributions have taken the form of financial and technical assistance, among other things.
The UNFCCC, established in 1992, aimed to discuss climate change mitigation options. The UNFCCC's treaties and other actions resulted in the 1995 approval of the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds member countries to emission reduction targets. The Protocol's first commitment ran from 2008 to 2012 and is anticipated to be extended until 2020, when the second commitment will expire (UNFCCC, 2014). These and other occurrences clearly show that climate change has become a global concern.
Ghana is not immune to the effects and hazards of climate change. Historical climate data show a substantial rise in temperature and associated unpredictability in rainfall across the country during the last few decades. Over the last few decades, mean annual temperature has risen while rainfall has decreased significantly (Government of Ghana).
Temperatures are expected to rise by an average of 2 degrees Celsius and rainfall to plummet by more than 11 percent during the next few decades, according to GoG (2011) and McSweeney, New, and Lizcano (n.d). (GOG 2007). According to Minia (2008) and Dontwi and Buabeng (2008), these changes and their worse manifestations are expected to hit the country in the near future.
Climate change's effects on Ghana's people and economy have already sparked widespread alarm. Climate change is putting a strain on natural resources (Dontwi et al 2008), river, stream, and power generation systems, as well as contributing to flooding (Gyau-Boakye 2001). (Brown and Crawford 2008).
Other anticipated effects include increased water and food insecurity, power supply issues (E-parl 2008, GoG 2007), flooding (Brown & Crawford 2008), migration (Geest &Jeu, 2008), worsening poverty and health-related problems (DANIDA 2008), and, ultimately, reduced socioeconomic growth and development.
Climate change communication and education have been ongoing since the 1980s, when climate change first became a national concern. Communication serves as a means of increasing an individual's cognitive capacity (Pruneau, Khattabi, & Demers 2010), ensuring greater public understanding and engagement on climate policy and issues (Ockwell, Whitmarsh, & O'neil, 2009; PCGCC 2009 and Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser- Renouf & Smith, 2010a), addressing the current and potential effects of climate change (Frumkin & McMichael, 2008; (Fischhoff, 2007).
The extent to which a country can reduce or adapt to climate change is heavily dependent on citizen participation (Moser 2008a, see also Ekman & Amna).
2009). Early climate change communication techniques were found to be ineffective since they concentrated on scientific research reports (Weart 2003). Bak (2001) and Sturgis and Allum (2004) ascribe this to communicators' reliance on the information deficit paradigm, which attributes a lack of public participation to a lack of information and comprehension of the people. In order to inspire action, the approach basically calls for more information and explanation to people.
Moscovi's (1984) Social Representation Theory (SRT) posits that knowing public perception of climate change is critical in climate change communication and engagement methods. This assertion is supported by Leiserowitz, Maibach, and Rosenthal (2008), Shome and Max (2009), and Moser (2010), who advocate for greater research on public understanding.
They argue that such research would be more meaningful if it focused on understanding people's experiences and perceptions. The absence of this will nonetheless generate a minimal level of public reaction ( Exley and Christie, 2003)
Civic engagement, youth engagement, and adaptation and mitigation issues cannot be tackled separately. If social concerns are relevant to their lived experiences, young people are more inclined to become involved in them (Brady, Dolan, Kearns, Kennan, McGrath, Shaw and Brennan, 2012).
According to Brennan (2008), recognizing teenage resiliency is a more valuable resource for community and national adaptive capacities and well-being. According to the World Bank, students have essential roles in supporting knowledge-driven economic growth strategies, national innovation systems, and the development of democratic, socially cohesive societies, as well as serving as a country's primary informed populace.
University students have been highlighted as a nation's best hope and most effective resource in the pursuit of sustainable development (Weehen, 2000). They have the potential to be game changers, policy implementers, and effective decision-making tools at the national level (Gellin 2003). It will thus be prudent to investigate the attitudes of Ghanaian university students about climate change issues.
1.2 THE PROBLEM'S STATEMENT
Public understanding, knowledge, and research have been identified as essential tools for combating human-caused climate change (Moser 2010).
Public resistance to modifying important behaviors remains a major research challenge, particularly given apparent advances in public awareness of scientific reasons (Exley & Christie, 2003).
In Ghana, public attitudes and participation with climate change are significantly lacking. According to Leiserowitz, Maibach, and Roser (2008) and Shome and Max (2009), research should focus on knowing the local people's views, attitudes, and beliefs in order to facilitate effective communication (see also Crompton & Kasser, 2010).
However, Jaspal et al (2014) state that this is not the current practice. There is minimal empirical data to support the efficacy of climate change communication and public understanding (Pidgeon& Fischhoff 2011).
The few studies that have been conducted have primarily focused on the Western world and marginalized vulnerable African countries such as Ghana (BBC 2009, Shahadu, 2012, Leiserowitz 2007).
Despite earlier study indicating that the Ghanaian populace does not understand climate change, this cannot be justified for university students. University students are unique in that they have extensive exposure to knowledge and information sources. Furthermore, previous studies in Ghana did not place a premium on how people's understandings are converted into responses. In this sense, research into university students' awareness of and responses to climate change, with a focus on experiences and beliefs, has become critical.
1.3 THE STUDY'S OBJECTIVE
The goal of this study is to examine pupils' understanding and reaction to climate change, hence the objectives are as follows:
Assess pupils' comprehension and knowledge of climate change.
Determine the degree to which pupils recognize climate change as an environmental issue.
Describe the pupils' reactions to climate change messages, adaption challenges, and mitigation concerns.
1.4 QUESTIONS FOR RESEARCH
This research is guided by the following questions:
What are the kids' levels of understanding and knowledge about climate change?
To what extent have the pupils acknowledged climate change as an environmental issue?
3.How are students reacting to calls for adaptation, mitigation, and behavioral change?
1.5 THE STUDY'S IMPORTANCE
The significance of this finding cannot be overstated. This study will add to the existing but limited literature or understanding on climate change, particularly in the social sciences.
It would also assist many stakeholders in comprehending and appreciating how the general population, particularly literate and intellectuals, are reacting to the situation. The study's findings will be published.
Assist in the development of stronger and more strategic communicative instruments for eliciting expected reactions. It will be a useful tool for making recommendations to university and education authorities about changes to curricula and co-curricular activities.
This study is expected to increase adaptation and mitigation efforts and lead to more sustainable living. Most importantly, the study will determine the extent of student responses to climate change, which is critical for policy and environmental sustainability.
1.6 STUDY OBJECTIVES
The study was restricted to University students at the University of Cape Coast, which is located in the Cape Coast metropolis in Ghana's Central Region. The study recognized the critical and urgent necessity for modern Ghana and the globe at large to find answers to a significant environmental problem such as climate change.
The study was primarily interested in climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. It contends that awareness and comprehension of a topic do not always imply action. The study was confined to student understanding and responses due to the research's purpose.
Understanding and knowledge were assessed by comparing them to internationally accepted definitions, whilst assimilation and responses were assessed by their agreement with issues and participation in pro-climate change initiatives.
1.7 THE STUDY'S LIMITATIONS
The study recognizes that university students in Ghana are dispersed across almost every region of the country, and that even within the University of Cape Coast, the courses and programs are numerous and diverse; however, resource constraints and time constraints prevented all of them from being included in the study. Because the research was focused on getting data from a large number of respondents, and due to time constraints, data collection instruments were confined to questionnaire administration.
1.8 TERM DEFINITION
CLIMATE CHANGE: Climate change encompasses both global warming caused by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting large-scale adjustments in weather patterns.
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VERIFICATION OF STUDENTS' UNDERSTANDING OF, AND RESPONSE TO, CLIMATE CHANGE IN GHANA (CASE STUDY OF UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST, GHANA)