Having a better understanding of the public’s awareness of the risks of climate change will help provide a platform for more effective engagement at the community and society level. This study aimed to explore the Scottish public’s understanding of current and future risks and opportunities posed by a changing climate, and highlight any gaps that should be the focus of future public and community engagement on adaptation.

The report is based on a rapid evidence assessment (REA) of previous quantitative and qualitative studies of public perceptions of climate risks and adaptation in the UK, and a nationally representative survey of the Scottish public.

Key findings
  • Echoing recent trends, concern about climate change in Scotland was high and increasing, and a majority felt that Scotland was already feeling the effects of climate change. 
  • Weather-related events were generally seen as more of a serious problem for Scotland overall than for respondents’ local areas. 
  • Risks to both the natural and built environment were also more likely to be seen as a problem for the whole of Scotland than for respondents’ local areas.
  • Respondents generally recognised the need for action to address the impacts of climate change but were fairly moderate about the perceived efficacy of individual or household actions. 
  • Most respondents had already taken, or planned to take, at least one action to help address the impacts of climate change. 
  • Concern about climate change and perceived seriousness of risks varied between groups and by location. It tended to be higher among women, younger people (aged 16-34), those educated to a degree level and homeowners.

These findings can inform future public engagement in a number of way, including on how to communicate climate risks and extreme weather and build on the public’s awareness, and the most effective starting points for action.