The experience of environmental stress and attitudes towards climate change was explored for 1226 students at the University of the South Pacific, the foremost tertiary institution serving the independent nations of the Pacific. Students sourced information regarding climate change from media including television, radio, and newspapers; the community (typically via their village, church, and extended family); the University and their friends; and in addition to regional agencies such as the Pacific Community. Most students concluded that they could not believe all of the informations provided by these sources. The findings demonstrate that most students—the future elite of the region—rank global environmental change as the highest future risk. Although nearly all respondents believed that climate change was happening, more than half of respondents believed that the risk was exaggerated and only one-third believed that science would find an answer, suggesting a lack of trust in scientific sources of information. Results also showed that these attitudes varied across demographic factors such as age, region, and gender. The understanding of contemporary attitudes towards global environmental change among a cohort that is likely to include future national leaders in the Pacific Islands region presents unique opportunities for long-range planning of intervention and support strategies. Of particular note for effective intervention and support is the breadth and trustworthiness of various information sources including Pacific Island leaders.
Regional Environmental Change / Vol. Article in Press