Public Lecture “Mapping student’s perceptions about climate change: dissemination of survey results on students and climate change”

Yogyakarta, 20 Maret 2023. The public lecture aims to disseminate the findings of survey on student’s perceptions of climate change. The survey was carried out in 2022 by lecturers and students in the Quantitative Research Methods course at the Department of Politics and Government, UGM with the goal of understanding the variation of young people’s perspectives towards climate change, and factors that shape their knowledge, beliefs, and actions regarding the phenomenon.

The public lecture was started with the moderator, Ardiman Kelihu, who provided the overall context of the discussion and introduced the speakers. The session continued with a presentation from Mahesti Hasanah who was explaining the data collection method from the survey. According to Mahesti, the survey is a collaborative project between lecturers and students, as well as a representation of a project-based learning class in the Quantitative Research Methods class at the Department of Politics and Government, UGM. By using a quantitative method, this survey chose a collaborative and participatory approach in the process of formulating instruments, preparing respondents, and collecting data. The data collection is done with both online and/or offline mode with an even distribution of gender and respondents from various faculties and universities in Indonesia. 

The survey aims to see variations in the perceptions of students who are on the island of Java—with more established infrastructure and more intensive exposure to information on climate change—and outside Java. With this aim, Mahesti stated that the survey managed to collect a total of 1,083 respondents, slightly exceeding the initial target of 1,000 respondents. Data collection was carried out by course participants and more than 10 partners from universities outside UGM. Demographically, respondents are gathered from 22 universities in Indonesia, both inside and outside Java Island, with nearly equal percentages of men (518 respondents) and women (567 respondents). All respondents were aged between 17 to 22 years with the percentage of respondents aged 19 dominating.

The discussion continued with a presentation from Agustinus Allan Porajow, a representative from students in the Quantitative Research Methods course who was also involved as an enumerator in the survey. Allan started with the reason behind the selection of ‘climate change’ as the main topic of the survey. According to Allan, climate change as an issue needs to be brought forward because, firstly, the climate crisis is already happening today. This is marked by a variety of natural events that show catastrophic aspects for society and the environment, and that encourage real action from the community to find solutions for the problems. Second, the climate change issue is becoming increasingly popular and attracts the attention of the public, government and media. However, there has not been much effort from mainstream activism to place this issue as a priority. Third, the issue was chosen because of the urgency of the younger generation to participate in the discussions related to the green movement. Allan raised the intergenerational aspect of climate change which emphasized that young people are the ones who will inherit the earth to the next generation, so that what they choose today will have an impact on life in the future.

According to Allan, based on the survey, young people strongly believe that the global climate is changing. This marks a good start for the climate change movement in Indonesia with young people as one of the main actors. Allan then emphasized the need for a holistic understanding of climate change, especially due to the current understanding of the issue which tends to be conservative and associates climate change only with the phenomenon of melting polar ice, drought, or increasing temperatures. In fact, the effects of climate change are way much bigger. Some of them include deforestation, land use change, or food crises that are emerging as part of the problem. Allan continued his presentation by underlining findings regarding the importance of social media and class discussions as a medium for disseminating information and awareness regarding climate change. However, when asked about issues that must be addressed by the government, climate change was not a priority for the respondents. Poverty, economic inequality, and corruption are considered as more significant issues for the government to address.

The presentation was continued by Nanang Indra Kurniawan who underlined the aspect of temporality as an element which is often being problematized in the climate change issue. Temporality is represented by the use of intergenerational aspects and the term “future” which is described as full of threats and emergencies. By using temporality, young people appear as the most interested actors as they are the ones who will face these threats in the future.

Nanang then restated the purpose of the research being conducted, namely to understand the views of educated youth in Indonesia regarding climate change. This is done by identifying the factors that shape their knowledge, beliefs, and actions on climate change. The research also aims to look at their views towards public policy priorotized by the government, their level of trust to the government, and their commitment to actions in addressing climate change. 

This study departs from the assumption that variations in perceptions of climate change are shaped by the level of industrialization, modernization, and economic growth. Therefore, by assuming that Java Island is an area with higher levels of modernization, industrialization and economic growth than other regions, the categorization and selection of the number of respondents was carried out based on the proportion of Java and outside Java to capture variations in youth perceptions.

Nanang explained further about the elements elaborated in the survey, including the personal characteristics of the respondents, knowledge related to climate change, empirical experience, beliefs on climate change, level of trust in the government, and actions or engagement in efforts to deal with climate change. The findings that Nanang underlined were the characteristics of Indonesian respondents or students (decisive-non-decisive) who tended to be moderate, but relatively decisive, open, and optimistic. Respondents have an active agential capacity with a moderate tendency; they engage in debate, discussion, and share knowledge with others. Furthermore, students’ exposure to climate change issues tends to be relatively high, with the main source of information coming from social media. With high exposure, the majority of students believe that climate change is real and that the phenomenon is deemed as dangerous to society. 

For the respondents, climate change is caused mostly by anthropogenic factors. That means, individual behavior, including theirs, contributes to climate change. There is a reflective aspect of the respondents regarding their involvement in the climate change issue. They also put a high confidence in the adaptive capacity of humans in overcoming these problems through knowledge and technology-based solutions. Although respondents are confident in the government’s commitment to solving climate change issues, the survey does not include ideological variables or political preferences that influence the respondent’s perspective on the government’s performance. With this in mind, the majority of respondents are interested to be involved in efforts to deal with climate change.

Nanang concluded the discussion by explaining that, for young generation, climate change is not a prioritized issue for the government to resolve, specifically when compared to other pressing development problems such as poverty, economic inequality, and corruption. Although the respondents have been exposed to series of questions related to climate change, and they do believe that it is real and important for society to tackle them, they did not put climate change as among the three most important issues for Indonesian public policy-makers to address. This confirms the theory that a society that is still experiencing economic instability does not have the privilege to prioritize ecological or climate change issues in its public policies.