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UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA UNDERGRADUATES’ KNOWLEDGE OF AND ATTITUDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Background to the Study
Climate change is the most pervasive environmental issue which has become a global scourge owing to its far-reaching deleterious effects on environment, biodiversity as well as on health of animal and human species (The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, 1996) including the undergraduates of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. According to Custom Writings (2008), climate change threatens the health of the earth’s inhabitants and the world’s economies every day and this is why D’Silva (2011) noted that there has been a hue and cry about climate change ever since the idea was first put forward.
IPCC (1996) warned that the impacts of climate change on environmental stability and life on earth are better imagined than experienced. They include changes in the global climate and the consequent disruption in the temporal and spatial distribution of temperature, precipitation, evapo-transpiration, clouds and air currents as well as the consequent shift in the vegetational belts; melting of the polar ice-caps; rise in sea level which could adversely affect low-lying areas and the synergy among these discrete effects. Each of the above has implications for fresh water resources, agriculture and food supply, natural ecosystems, biodiversity as well as human and animal health (IPCC, 1996).
Climate change is accompanied with longer and more intense heat waves, storms and more pests which in turn can carry devastating diseases (Gille, 2002). Climate Change Science Programme, CCSP (2008) noted that changing climate has led to more widespread of diseases and deaths due to malaria. According Stanford Solar Center, SSC (2008), climate change will result in the spreading of certain diseases such as malaria, the flooding of major cities, a greater risk of heat stroke for individuals and poor air quality. CCSP (2008) observed that the increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes and typhoons in America and Japan, the rapid melting of polar ice, floods in the south of Asia, twenty years of drought in Somalia, the unexpected damage caused by forest fires in Australia among others have led to thousands of casualties as well as loss of billions of dollars in financial value.
At its core, Health Education functions to bring the message of this debacle to bear in the minds of the general public. Promoting public health through Health Education means seeking to advance good health outcomes and usually more pressingly, to avoid bad health outcomes such as those which come with the climate changes (Beauchamp & Steinbock, 1999). As Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change with the least intellectual, institutional and technological capability to address it (Ozor, 2010), health educators express worry if the wealthier countries will accept to take up more responsibilities of addressing the scourge of climate change than the less fortunate others as enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol (Beauchamp & Steinbock, 1999). This is especially when the industrialized countries are the major contributors of climate change (Ozor, 2010). However, the issue of climate change, as noted before, is a global scourge and to prevent it, there is need for all people including the university undergraduates to understand the meaning and consequences of climate change.
Climate Change, according to Encarta (2009) is a long-term alteration in global weather patterns, especially increases in temperature and storm activity, regarded as a potential consequence of the green house effect. CCSP (2008) stated that climate change refers to the earth’s air and ocean gradually heating up to a point that disrupts balance in human and natural resources. The above definitions show that the earth’s temperature is rising leading to disruption of the earth’s ecosystem. A global coverage of satellite-derived atmospheric temperatures is now available for 22 years, revealing that the earth is warming (Foster, 2000). This accounts for why most studies on the subject refer to climate change as global warming. In this study, Climate Change and global warming was used interchangeably to mean the increase above the normal temperature of the earth (as a result of accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere) leading to disaster like hurricanes, more thunder-related deaths and destructions, droughts, flood, diseases and other inconveniences to man (including the undergraduates of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka).
Green House Gases (GHGs) have been shown as the culprit of climate change although, D’Silva (2011) remarked that climatic conditions may also vary due to natural circumstances such as volcanic eruptions and solar activities (solar variation and orbital forcing). Timeforchange (2011) noted that almost 100 per cent of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and the largest contributing source is anthropogenic activities. Anthropogenic activities in this study are the sum total of human activities such as burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, oil flaring, application of agro-chemicals, over-grazing among others which affect climate by unleashing volumes of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gaseous components in the atmosphere that contribute to the heating of the earth by means of a similar effect produced by the glass panes of a greenhouse (D’Silva, 2011). They are any of the atmospheric gases according to Mifflin (2009), which contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation produced by solar warming of the earth’s surface. The term greenhouse gases (GHGs) according to Buzzle (2011) is used to refer to the gases present in the atmosphere which absorb the radiation and emit them within the thermal infrared range. This process is termed greenhouse effect. It increases the global temperature leading to a phenomenon called global warming (Wallace, 2008 and Wikipaedia, 2010). The GHGs are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, ground level ozone, chlorofluorocarbons nitrous oxide, aerosols among others (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, UNCED, 1992; IPCC, 2007; Wallace, 2008; Microsoft Encarta, 2009; Lindinger & Kunzemann, 2010; Buzzle, 2011). Because these greenhouse gases are good absorbers of heat radiation coming from the Earth’s surface, they act like a blanket over the Earth’s surface, keeping it warmer than it otherwise would have been. Their accumulation would accelerate the warming effect beyond acceptable levels. If current trends in anthropogenic GHG emissions continue through 2030, the earth will experience an average rise in temperature ranging from 34.7 to 40.1o F (1.5 to 4.5o C) (Porter & Brown, 1991). The operational definition of GHG in this study was the one given by Encarta (2009) thus: greenhouse gases are gases that contribute to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere by reflecting radiation from the earth’s surface.
IPCC (1996) and United States Environmental Protection Authority (USEPA, 2011) noted that there have been series of international conventions (Vienna Convention in 1985, Montreal Protocol in 1987, Rio Declaration in 1992, Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Buenos Aires Climate Summit in 1998, Marrakesh Agreement in 2001, Bali Climate Change Conference in 2007, Ponzan Climate Conference in 2008, Weather Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 among others) which have been working to reduce emissions. Regrettably, lack of a strong collaboration among nations results to ever increasing emission of these gases. For instance, Ikeme (2001) noted that Nigeria government finds it difficult to embrace global policy to mitigate global warming because her economy remains dependent on fossil fuels. This is particularly worrisome because fossil fuels are the chief culprit implicated in the environmental issue of climate change phenomenon. Cullis-Suzuki (1992) expressed fears that most of the anthropogenic activities embarked upon by man are pivotal for man’s wellbeing and economic growth that man finds it difficult to embrace mitigation action. Also, the fight against climate change requires a collective effort. Individuals do not see it as personal responsibility, so, they would rather not compromise their pleasures. Health Education has a great job of letting these individuals including the university undergraduates to appreciate the need for all hands to be on deck in fighting the debacle.
The fight against the climate change is hindered by so many factors and in as much as the solution of environmental problems such as climate change relies on political, economic and technological remedies, Ikeme (2001) suggested that it also requires more educated individuals who know about environmental problems and the measures needed to rectify them. As the future of the earth is in the hands of today’s youths (the university undergraduates), it becomes imperative that climate change awareness be implanted in the university undergraduates through Health Education to equip them for prevention of climate change and its consequences.
An undergraduate is a university or college student who is studying for their first degree (Hornby, 2005). Ugwu (2001) defined an undergraduate as a person working towards obtaining first degree in a tertiary institution. Ugwu (2001)’s definition of undergraduate was adopted in this study. The undergraduates, university undergraduates and students were used interchangeably as one and the same concept in this study.
What climate change holds for the near future generation is grossly devastating. Health Education, if properly planned and delivered to cover all areas of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable man to live harmoniously with his environment will no doubt go a long way in forestalling most of the consequences of climate change experienced today. Mitigating the challenges of climate change starts by the knowledge it. Thus, there was need to ascertain the level of knowledge possessed by the undergraduate who are the future leaders and the potential fighters of climate change and its scourge. Knowledge concerning climate change is necessary for all and sundry including the undergraduates of University of Nigeria where the present study was conducted. This is because World Health Organisation, WHO (1990) noted that knowledge is prerequisite to practice.
Bedworth and Bedworth (1978) remarked that knowledge implies an understanding of specific facts, terminologies, convention, ways and means of dealing with specific trends, sequences, classifications, categories, methodology, criteria, universal and abstract principles and generalizations and finally theories and structures. Two important clauses are subsumed in this definition: “an understanding of specific facts” and “means of dealing with specific trends” The undergraduates’ understanding of climate change consequences (specific facts) would mould their attitudes positively towards mitigating climate effects (means of dealing with them). Omoregbe (1998) sees knowledge as facts of understanding events, issues or objects that are acquired either through learning or experiences. The undergraduates may or may not have been exposed to the learning experiences related to climate change and its consequences. However, knowledge in this study was defined as undergraduates’ level understanding of the meaning, causes, effects and prevention of climate change.
One of the interests of the present study was to establish the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of the subject matter. Such knowledge was suspected to have positive correlation with the attitude towards it. Blurtit (2011) defined attitudes as evaluative statements favorable or unfavorable related to person, object or event which reflects how one feels about something or somebody. Generally, attitudes are positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event. People can also be conflicted or ambivalent toward an object, meaning that they simultaneously possess both positive and negative attitudes toward the item in question (Wikipaedia, 2011). In the present work, attitude referred to the evaluative statements which reflect how the undergraduates feel about climate change in relation to its causes, effects and prevention.
There are certain variables which can influence the climate change knowledge and attitude of the undergraduates. One of such variables is gender. Raudsepp (2001) found that women were significantly more likely than men to be concerned with environmental problems. Females have been consistently shown to have higher environmentally conscious attitude than men. They are also more knowledgeable of environmental issues than their counterparts. The common reason advanced for gender differences regarding environmental consciousness is the pattern of assignment of social responsibilities between boys and girls (Raudsepp, 2001). The girls are assigned all the sweeping and cleaning activities and they gradually and unconsciously get so used to the welfare of the environment unlike their male counterparts. This means that females show more positive attitudes to the environment than males. Specifically, in the area of climate change, Agwu and Okhimamhe (2009) submitted that women were found to be more knowledgeable than their male counterparts of the same age brackets. Okhimamhe noted that women care about the environment more than do men. In the present study, the level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change based on gender were determined.
Course of study is another variable that can influence knowledge of and attitude towards climate change. People in the Sciences are constantly been exposed to learning experiences in the area of climate change than those in arts (Ingwe, Ikeji, Mboto & Ojong, 2010; Ozor, 2010). Sharp and Høj (2011) found that most of the studies reporting climate change come from the Physical Sciences, rather than Social Sciences. Ingwe, Ikeji, Mboto and Ojong (2010) observed that the universities that organize climate change programme only do that in Geology, Geography, Climatology and in few other Physical Science courses. This is an indication that those in Physical Sciences may be more knowledgeable of climate change than those in Biological or Social Sciences. Aladag and Ugurlu (2011) in their study, Global climate change education in Turkey, found that misconceptions and misunderstandings about many environmental issues, climate change included, are not only held by pupils but by teachers as well. These misconceptions and misunderstandings are probably due to, among other things, the complexity of the science involved, the uncertainties and the controversies surrounding them. He concluded that those offering science courses are in better position to possess more climate change knowledge and show more positive attitude to environment than the non-science students. The present work found out the level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change based on course of study.
Studies report that among the undergraduates, year of study can influence the level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change. Oruonye (2011) conducted a study to assess the level of awareness of the effects of climate change among students of tertiary institutions in Jalingo Metropolis, Taraba State Nigeria. The findings of the study reveal that the students’ level of knowledge of climate change increases as the students progress from first to final year. This shows that while those in final year possess more knowledge of climate change than the rest of the students, those in their first year have the least knowledge than their senior counterparts. Studies also report that year of study can influence the level of knowledge of and attitude to health issues generally. Illiterates are more vulnerable to this climate change misconception than the literate ones. Uneducated Augie women of Niger State believed that the effects of climate change were calamities inflicted by God (Agwu & Okhimamhe, 2009). In this study, the level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change based on year of study were investigated.
This study was anchored on three theories which were the Affective-Cognitive Consistency Theory (ACCT), Epistemology theory and the Functional theory in explaining the knowledge and attitude of the University of Nigeria undergraduates concerning climate change. The ACCT examined the interaction between knowledge and attitude and how they influence each other. Attitude is changed because there is new knowledge (Rosenberg, 1956). This theory was used in the present work to show that when the undergraduates acquire new knowledge on climate change in relation to its causes, effects and prevention, they tend to change their attitudes positively towards climate change mitigation.
The standpoint of Epistemology theory according to Conner and Norman (1996) is that people know about things and events around them through their senses. This theory implied in this work that individuals (the undergraduates under study) can come to know a thing (causes, effects and prevention of climate change), and they can recognize and identify what they have seen, touched or felt (sheer effects of climate change) through their senses. Further, this theory implies that individuals (the undergraduates) can have enough experiences on climate change through training (lectures, seminars, symposia, workshops and the media). Experiences here implied having knowledge of climate change in its entirety.
The central theme of Functional theory is that changing an attitude requires understanding its motivational basis or its function for the individual. In other words, Functional theory is interested in the roles that attitude plays (Katz, 1960). There are four identified personality functions of attitude in this theory but the present study dwelt on one of them which was the utilitarian function of attitude. The utilitarian function acknowledges the behaviorist principle which states that people are motivated to change their attitude in order to gain rewards and avoid punishments from their environment. The horror associated with climate change may motivate the undergraduates to change their attitude positively in mitigation of climate change.
Statement of the Problem
Climate change poses a clear danger to the entire life and man’s continued existence on earth. The undergraduates are the future policy makers and administrators. As a result, they are the potential fighters of climate change and need to possess a level of knowledge on climate change which will not only positively influence their attitude to climate change, but also will make them take a better stance in mitigating the debacle.
Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to climate change mitigation is lack of its knowledge especially in developing countries including Nigeria (Agwu & Okhimamhe, 2009; Ozor, 2010). It is painful that Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change (based on literature evidence), yet, most studies conducted in Africa and specifically in various Nigerian universities show that there was either little or complete lack of climate change knowledge among the undergraduates of the studied universities due to insufficient or lack of climate change programmes in these universities. This also influences the undergraduates’ attitude towards climate change.
The present researcher was worried about the level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change of the undergraduates of the studied Nigerian universities who are the future leaders and potential fighters of climate change which has heavy load of disasters to earth’s inhabitants if not prevented. The researcher was worried if this level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change among the studied undergraduates would be the same among the undergraduates of the University of Nigeria as no study has been conducted in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to establish the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of and attitude to climate change.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to determine the University of Nigeria undergraduates’ knowledge of and attitude to climate change. Specifically, the study intended to find out the undergraduates’:
- level of knowledge of meaning of climate change;
- level of knowledge of causes of climate change
- level of knowledge of effects of climate change;
- level of knowledge of prevention of climate change;
- attitude to causes of climate change;
- attitude to effects of climate change;
- attitude to prevention of climate change;
- level of knowledge of climate change based on gender;
- level of knowledge of climate change based on year of study;
- level of knowledge of climate change based on course of study;
- attitude to climate change based on gender;
- attitude to climate change based on year of study; and
- attitude to climate change based on course of study.
The following research questions were posed to guide the present study:
- What is the undergraduates’ level of level of knowledge of meaning of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of causes of climate change
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of effects of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of prevention of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to causes of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to effects of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to prevention of climate change?
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on gender
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on year of study?
- What is the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on course of study?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on gender?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on year of study?
- What is the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on course of study?
The following three hypotheses were postulated for verification at 0.05 level of significance:
- There is no significant difference in the level of knowledge of climate change among the undergraduates in relation to their year of study.
- There is no significant difference in the attitude to climate change among the undergraduates based on gender.
- There is no significant difference in the level of knowledge of climate change among the undergraduates in relation to their course of study.
Significance of the Study
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have always pitied Africa because she is in the tropics where temperature is already hot. Further increase in temperature as a result of global warming will turn Africa into hell. On this premise, UNFCCC and USAID concluded that Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents in the presence of global warming. Data generated from the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of meaning of climate change may help to give the UNFCCC and USAID clue of the level of knowledge of meaning of climate change possessed by undergraduates of the exemplary African nation and the continental giant, Nigeria. UNFCCC and USAID may be able to extrapolate what the situation will be with the other African countries undergraduates. This will guide UNFCCC and USAID in giving educational and technical assistance in this area to the countries within the continent.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of causes climate change may be of immense benefit to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA). If the undergraduates do not know the causes of climate change, it will attract the attention of the NOA and FEMA who will now direct the bulk of their job towards letting the undergraduates know about causes climate change through their campaigns. This is because the undergraduates are the future leaders. It will be a wasted energy asking them to prevent climate change if they do not know the causes.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of effects climate change may be a stimulant to the curriculum planners at all levels of education to design the curriculum in such a way that learners will appreciate the effects of the debacle. The undergraduates of other universities may be challenged noting that the level of knowledge of climate change possessed by their counterparts surpasses theirs.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of prevention of climate change may help the UNN administration to know how successful or unsuccessful the climate change programmes which it says exist in UNN is. Through this, they may find a way of strengthening or adapting the programmes to achieve its set goals. This data will also be useful to researchers who want to find out whether or how the knowledge of the effects of climate change among the undergraduates influences their attitude towards it.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ attitude to causes of climate change may help in providing information to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on the need to prevent the menace of climate change by advancing the campaign of climate change mitigation to the universities.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ attitude to effects of climate change will benefit the government and her policy makers. If the government has the interests of the future generations at heart, they will (through the data gotten from this segment) see the need to add more impetus in training the undergraduates who will become the tomorrow’s leaders in such a way that the effects of climate change will not be seen as just a tale but be appreciated as impending calamity. This is within the ambit of the Ministries of Education and their curriculum planners.
The fight against climate change requires collaboration of all hands with the international communities. It requires that individuals should compromise their personal pleasures and gains such as reducing the use of refrigerators, air conditioners, fertilizer and deforestation among numerous others. Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ attitude to prevention of climate change will portray, among other things, the level of the undergraduates’ willingness to forfeit their gains, pleasures and conveniences in a bid to fight against this debacle. The data in this segment may be a stimulus to groups, NGOs or bodies who are championing the fight against the impending scourge like the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC), and World Bank among others who are interested in encouraging the developing countries through grants, scholarship and other forms of financial assistance to enable them appreciate the reality of the contextual scourge and embrace the step taken to fight it.
Data generated to determine the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on gender in this study may be of immense value to the Federal and State Ministries of Education and Health, and curriculum planners. Specifically, the State Post Primary School Management Board (SPPSMB) that oversees secondary schools’ organization within the state will take cue from the result of the study to know where more emphasis will be placed. For instance, if the result of the study shows that the girls’ level of knowledge of climate change is low when compared to their boys’ counterparts, the curriculum for the girls’ schools may be reviewed to stress on the subject matter. If the result shows that both boys and girls have low level of knowledge of the subject matter, the curriculum will be adjusted to have a harder grip on climate change even at university level.
Data generated from determining the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on year of study may be of great help to the university administrators (particularly University of Nigeria). It will give the beneficiaries added impetus to adapt the curricular in such a way that the undergraduates (irrespective of their year of study) will have holistic knowledge of climate change before/on graduation.
The result of the undergraduates’ level of knowledge of climate change based on course of study may be used as a spring board for environmental related curriculum planning and studies for the universities. The Academic Planning Unit of these universities may find this result veritable in planning the academics to be able to answer the question “who needs what?” More so, given the exclusive reliance on fossil fuels for foreign exchange by the Nigerian government, the impact of the global shift away from fossil fuels is bound to cripple the Nigerian economy. The data may draw the attention of the Nigerian government and her policy makers to find ways of adapting the curricular to prepare the undergraduates who are the future leaders and economic planners to be able to meet these impending challenges.
Data generated from the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on gender may trigger the NOA and NEMA among others, who work to address the challenges of the global climate change. The NOA and NEMA in the course of their youths’ orientation may need to put more efforts in encouraging the youths on the right types of attitude that are environmental friendly and discourage them on the unwholesome ones. Also, it may help the classroom teachers to know the areas that they will lay emphasis on while planning the learning experience of the students so as to inculcate environmental friendly attitude in both male and female undergraduates.
Data generated from the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on year of study will benefit not only the curriculum planners but also the Nigerian government, her ministries and agencies. There is not supposed to be disparity in the level of knowledge of climate change due to differences in the level of education. The fresh students as well as the old ones should have abundance of knowledge of climate change because both the fresh and the old students contribute to climate change. So, they need to fight it jointly. The curriculum planners may adjust the curriculum to provide scientific information on the debacle to all the students following the data generated in this segment.
Data generated from the undergraduates’ attitude to climate change based on course of study may be of immense benefit to United Nations (UN), United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who may want to grant scholarship to the students of under-developed and developing countries especially noting that Africa and other developing world are more vulnerable to the scourge of climate change. If particular set of courses of study have been shown to promote knowledge of, better attitude to and mitigation of climate change, the UN, the DfID and the USAID may be interested in granting scholarships in those courses to attract more people there in the fight against climate change.
Scope of the Study
The study covered the undergraduates students of 15 faculties of University of Nigeria. these faculties are distributed among 4 campuses which were Nsukka, Enugu, Ituku-Ozalla and Aba campuses.