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

by Charlie Thomson

A study conducted by the University of Freiburg in Germany, in conjunction with Lund University in Switzerland, aimed to answer the question of whether or not forest owners’ response to climate change had any correlation to their level of education and personal values. The study was conducted to test the cultural cognition thesis (CCT), which has historically cast significant levels of doubt over the frequently-mentioned and criticized “knowledge deficit” model –an assumption that the average person is less concerned about climate change and the effects of climate change due to a lack of scientific literacy and knowledge of the matter. Proponents of the cultural cognition thesis believe that citizens with the highest levels of education and scientific literacy fall under a category of people who are least concerned about climate change, due to a high level of cultural polarization and a difference of cultural values. In addition, those who accept the CCT’s hypothesis perceive that individuals with less formal educational backgrounds and a limited scientific literacy are in fact more concerned about climate change and its effects on mankind. This, in contrast to those with higher degrees of knowledge and scientific literacy due in large part to the fact that the CCT predicts that cultural and other values take precedence over a university education with some forest owners. The study was carried out by creating questionnaires designed to evaluate the impact of one’s level of education and personal values on their perception of climate change impact. The data collection method assessed an individual forest owner’s preferences for a multitude of services and benefits that were offered by that participant’s forest. Additionally, the questionnaire gauged participants’ perceptions of climate-change risk and the level of education each had received.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers determined that in neither of the two countries where populations were sampled completion of higher education was not a factor in reducing one’s perception of human’s contributions to climate change. Unsurprisingly, the greater the level of higher education completed, the greater the increased awareness and concern about the risks associated with climate change and human contributions to global warming. The results have proven that the relationship between values, level of education and risk perception as predicted by the cultural cognition thesis are not a factor within the domain that was investigated in this study. While these findings do not refute the claims made by the cultural cognition thesis, the results do not align with what would have been expected had all the mechanisms of the cultural cognition thesis been present. Thus, no evidence was found to solidify the notion that forest owners’ personal values possess a greater impact on an individual’s climate change perception in comparison to the impact of higher education on one’s beliefs.


Blennow, Kristina, Johannes Persson, Erik Persson, and Marc Hanewinkel. “Forest Owners’ Response to Climate Change: University Education Trumps Value Profile.” Forest Owners’ Response to Climate Change: University Education Trumps Value Profile 11 (2016): 1-13. Forest Owners’ Response to Climate Change. Public Library of Science, 2 Aug. 2016. Web. 20 Jan. 2017. <>.



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