BY OLIVIA DENNIS- STAFF WRITER
The question of whether and how much Americans care about climate change is continually in discussion. According to a University of Chicago’s survey, 61 percent of Americans think climate change is a problem that the government needs to address.
In 2019, students in a Digital Media and Environment course of professor Jennifer Rauch, Ph.D., surveyed their peers at Long Island University Brooklyn to understand where students stood on the issue of climate change. “Because this national study has already been conducted we thought that it presented a good opportunity for us to produce some original research and to replicate that study within the LIU student population,” Rauch said.
78 percent of LIU Brooklyn students who were surveyed last year said that climate change is occurring. 72 percent of them thought that their college campus should be doing “much more or somewhat more” to address climate change. Additionally, 72 percent of LIU students thought that they personally should be doing much more or somewhat more to address climate change.
Alexa Angelini, a fourth-year senior healthcare management major from San Diego, Calif., said, “Climate change is a very serious issue that will affect future generations and we need to make changes now to ensure our Earth has a safe future.”
The issue of climate change used to mostly concern young people and Americans that sided with the Democratic Party. This tends to no longer be the case. A survey conducted by University of Chicago found that seven in 10 Republicans and nearly all Democrats believe in climate change and want the government to take action. At LIU Brooklyn, students are generally more liberal. 45 percent of participating students described themselves as Democrat, 12.5 percent as Republican, 14 percent as Independent, and 22 percent as “none of these” or “unsure.”
Furthermore, LIU Brooklyn students in this survey were more diverse than the general American public. 59 percent of women and 50 percent described themselves as white, 17 percent as Asian, 15 percent as Latino, 12 percent as Black, and 10 percent as “other.” In comparison, the University of Chicago survey participants were 64 percent white, 16 percent Latino, and 12 percent Black and did not provide data for “Asian” or “other” categories.
The participants in the LIU Brooklyn survey were Pharmacy students (44 percent), students in Business (12 percent), Liberal Arts & Sciences/Arts & Communication (12 percent), Health Professions (12 percent), Nursing (six percent), and Education (two percent). The survey questioned first-years, sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students. With an average of 14 to 23 percent of respondents in each class. The survey did not use a random sample of LIU Brooklyn students, so its results cannot be generalized.
Results displayed that Americans, including college students, are concerned with global climate change. But do they believe there are more pressing global issues to be concerned with? 75 percent of LIU Brooklyn students expressed health care was very or extremely important, 70 percent said terrorism was very or extremely important, 55 percent said the economy was very or extremely important, and 46 percent expressed immigration was very or extremely important. According to the University of Chicago researchers, “Climate change and energy policy are very or extremely important to 48 percent and 54 percent of Americans, respectively, while at least two-thirds say health care, the economy, and terrorism are important policy priorities.”
“Terrorism, economy, health care and immigration are all relevant and important, but some climate change issues are non-reversable,” Chloe Clemente, a fourth- year occupational therapy student at LIU Brooklyn, said. “(Climate change) needs to be importantnow. Action needs to be taken immediately.”
The discussion on climate change will continue. Not only LIU Brooklyn students, but many other Americans have hinted their concerns regarding global climate change. Small steps can make a big difference, like spreading awareness. Starting at college campuses like Long Island University. Dr. Rauch says, “most of the surveyed students thought that the university should be doing more to educate students, encourage and enable them to take action on climate change through the campus being more sustainable and more recycling programs.”
Angelini explains, “I just want more people to care and more students to be aware of issues like climate change so we can start to make a difference. LIU Brooklyn should be offering courses on climate change and become a more ‘green’ campus”. Dr. Rauch believes environmental issues will continue to become more important, she says, “If we did the survey again now I would expect that the study would find people ranking environment issues a little bit higher.”