Climate change believers aren't wildfire mitigators

"This was a bit of a surprise," said researcher Patricia Champ.
By Brooks Hays   |   Oct. 13, 2015 at 2:32 PM
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BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Do people who believe climate change encourages wildfires tend to take extra steps to prevent wildfires?

The answer is no. New research out of the University of Colorado finds no correlation between a person's belief in climate science and their propensity for wildfire mitigation on their own property.

In a survey given to a cross-section of Colorado residents living in fire-prone communities, researchers found the opposite was true.

"A small but distinct portion of respondents who reject climate science as a 'hoax' are also the ones who reported doing significantly more risk mitigation activities than other respondents," Hannah Brenkert-Smith, a research associate in the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at CU-Boulder, said in a press release.

Brenkert-Smith is the lead author of a new study on the survey, published online this week in the journal Environmental Hazards.

Researchers say the findings prove attitudes about climate change and efforts to mitigate environmental hazards are nuanced. Local wildfire risks may be more important than climate science in influencing a person's wildfire mitigation behaviors, such as thinning vegetation or installing a fire-resistant roof.

"The conventional wisdom that a belief about climate change is a pre-requisite for mitigating local climate change impacts was not found in this analysis," said study co-author Patricia Champ, a scientists with the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station. "This was a bit of a surprise."

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