The focus group
This analysis explores the findings of the focus group conducted to academic staff and administrative staff of (name of University here) to gauge their perceptions on the issue of climate change. The focus group was conducted to know the images that come to their mind when the issue is talked about; their interest in the phenomenon; their knowledge on the causes of climate change, specifically the relation between car emissions and climate change; the impact of the phenomenon in their lives as well as in the local level; the availability of information; and who is responsible for the occurrence and mitigation of climate change.
Design The focus group consisted of 16 members from the Faculty of Meteorology, Environment, Arid Land & Agriculture (herein after referred to as the Faculty of Environment), which consisted of nine academic staff and eight administrative staff, and 17 members from the Faculty of Environmental Design, which consisted of nine academic staff and eight administrative staff. It is important to take note of the said divisions and subdivisions to gauge the differences in their responses. Results Overall, the results of the focus group were sufficient and interesting.
The succeeding sections will explore their responses in detail: Images This
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Most of the images that came to their minds were the desertification and crawling of sand to agricultural areas in Saudi Arabia, the floods in Jeddah and Riyadh, the melting of polar ice caps, the incidences of tsunami, and the sinking of some parts of Maldives. Meanwhile, the administrative staff’s answers in the two faculties were dissimilar. Participants in the Faculty of Environment relayed more comprehensive answers as they mentioned the images of floods in Jeddah and Riyadh, polar ice caps melting, and tsunami. Some members even mentioned some scenes in the film 2012.
In fact, one participant claimed, “After seeing the movie 2012, many images started to haunt me especially when I hear about the term ‘climate change. ’” The administrative staff from the Faculty of Environmental Design though mentioned about floods in Jeddah and Riyadh, occurrence of tsunamis, and the Copenhagen Conference only. Hence, the images that come to the participants’ minds when climate change is talked about are a mix picture of local and global events, namely, flooding and desertification, and polar ice cap melting and tsunami, respectively.
Interest The interest of the participants with regard to the issue of climate change may vary depending on their personal stance on the matter. Hence, the researcher explored on how much the group was interested on the topic. The researcher found out that all participants from the academic staff of the Faculty of Environment have a strong interest in and concern for the cause of climate change but the extent of their interest varies.
For instance, about 35 percent expressed that they are strongly interested in the issue because their work is directly connected to some climate change factors such as the air pollution in Jeddah, the sea pollution as well as the life of coral reefs in the Red Sea. In fact, one male participant, 47, claimed that the nature of his work required him to read the daily temperature report in Jeddah. Hence, his interest on the degree of hotness in the said area comes naturally.
Nonetheless, an equivalent of 65 percent showed their interest in the phenomenon of climate change but not that strongly as they consider the issue as a second interest in their life. They argued that indeed climate change is an important topic in their areas of specialization, but this does not come in as a priority in terms of research or in their respective fields. For instance, a number of participants have a genuine interest in the flora and fauna of Saudi Arabia but their interest in climate change comes only after the said topic.
Meanwhile, the academic staff of the Faculty of Environmental Design had a different stance. In particular, four participants from the Department of Landscape Architecture revealed that they have a strong interest on climate change because it has a significant relationship to the amount of rainfall affecting the desertification and vegetation in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, the rest of the members did not show any interest in the said concern. The administrative staff of the said faculty showed little interest though. Majority of them claimed that they lack interest on the issue of climate change.
In fact, one even said that the lack of information may be the reason for his lack of interest. However, two of them clarified that they have a partial interest in the phenomenon. Overall, the researcher found out that the group is interested on the issue of climate change. Though they may have varying levels of interest, it was evident that they have developed an interest on the phenomenon one way or another. Knowledge The researcher further aimed to gauge the amount of knowledge of the participants particularly the causes of climate change.
Their knowledge will in a way determine how well they are aware of the issue or how deep their understanding of the phenomenon. When asked about the root cause of climate change, majority of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environment attributed the phenomenon to humans as well as to natural processes. While the academic staff from the Faculty of Environmental Design agreed that human activities and nature may be the culprits behind climate change, they claimed they were a bit confused with regard to the particular root cause but majority of them confirmed that the impact of human activity has little to do with climate change.
According to one male participant, 47, “From what I know, natural processes have the greatest impact on climate change because I recall of similar events that had happened in the past, which ultimately led to a different change in our world. ” On the other hand, three participants from the administrative staff of both faculties claimed that indeed natural processes are the ones causing climate change. A male participant, 28, claimed, “I think this is already the beginning of the end story.
” Another male participant, 42, claimed that based on the book he read, the increasing temperature of the inner layers of the earth is the sole cause of the phenomenon. Meanwhile, eight participants highlighted that industrialized nations or developed countries such as China and the United States are the main cause of climate change and air pollution in the world. However, seven participants revealed they were not certain about the main causes of climate change.
One male participant, 31, said, “Indeed there is a lot of information on the issue of climate change, whether in books or from the media. Nonetheless, they do not tackle the main cause of this phenomenon. Therefore, it is difficult for us to determine the cause for this climate change. ” With the data gathered from the participants, it was evident that they regard nature or natural processes as well as human activities as culprits behind climate change. Car emissions The researcher aimed to focus specifically on the relation between car emissions and climate change.
Hence, the researcher asked the participants whether they believe that carbon dioxide emission from vehicles contribute to climate change. Majority of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environment and the Faculty of Environmental Design pointed out that there is a link between car emissions and climate change because the increasing amount of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles leads to an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One male participant, 34, said, “Car emissions amount to about 19 percent of human-generated greenhouse emissions.
” However, five participants from the Faculty of Environment believed that despite the relationship between car exhausts and climate change, there is little effect compared with the impact of steam plants. Additionally, majority of them thought that there is a strong relationship between car emissions and air pollution at the local level as well as and on human health. Furthermore, one participant from the said faculty expressed concern about the significant increase in the number of cars and felt that he must investigate the issue seriously.
However, majority of administrative staff in the two faculties pointed out that while there is a connection between air pollution and car emissions, the lack of awareness and knowledge on greenhouse gases made them uncertain if there exists a link between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. Several participants also mentioned that car emissions do not threaten them because the main threat is industrial fumes. In addition, the vast majority of participants from both faculties confirmed that the most important reason for the increased number of cars and emissions is cheap fuel prices.
Hence, the researcher asked for possible solutions to reduce transport emissions. Majority of them felt guilty as they have done little to mitigate such emissions. Nonetheless, majority of the academic staff from the two faculties said that the best they could do is reduce their daily car trips. Three participants from the academic staff of the Faculty of Environment and five from the Faculty of Environmental Design relayed that they bought cars with small engines to reduce emissions.
Three members from the academic staff of the Faculty on Environmental Design said they have been using bikes to mitigate emissions after the said faculty launched an awareness campaign to reduce air pollution. One male participant, 30, claimed to have changed his behaviour by riding a bike instead of his car in short-distance travels. Meanwhile, two members of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environment relayed that they have been walking instead of driving cars in short-distance trips. A male participant, 50, said, “I walk to maintain health primarily and to maintain the world next.
” Moreover, three members from the administrative staff of the Faculty of Environmental Design said they practice carpooling with some of their colleagues on the way to work. Meanwhile, majority of administrative staff in both faculties believe that even if they do their share in reducing car emissions, these acts will not result to a radical change. Moreover, some participants emphasized that they do not have an extensive background in the proper methods of reducing vehicle emissions. Another member of the Faculty of Environment pointed out that he is not interested on the issue of vehicle emissions reduction.
With these, it is clear to note that majority of the participants believe that there is a connection between car emissions and climate change. To solve this, most of them think that reducing the use of cars and promoting alternatives will somehow alleviate the problem. Impact Since the knowledge of the participants on the issue of climate change had been established, it was only necessary that the researcher look into the impact or effect that climate change have on them. Majority of academic staff from both faculties said that climate change have many side effects such as physical, social, and economic impacts.
Five participants mentioned the specific case of Jeddah where the change in temperature led to a significant change in the pattern of people’s lifestyle in the said city. A male participant, 42, said that his family now opts to leave their home in the evening because of the intense heat during daytime. Another male participant, 45, said, “I now avoid going to open areas because of the hot weather. I choose to stay indoors where there is air conditioning. ” Furthermore, ten participants revealed that the decrease in the levels of rainfall in the last decade led to the water crisis in Saudi Arabia.
Majority of them also pointed out that the rise in temperature has led to a large consumption of electricity used mainly for air conditioning. Moreover, some members of the Faculty of Environment linked the effects of climate change to the global level, mentioning about the melting of polar ice caps, desertification, and coastal flooding. Moreover, four members from the Faculty of Environmental Design mentioned about the physical damage and the financial consequences of the flooding in Jeddah.
Meanwhile, nine members from the said faculty claimed that they do not believe there are significant adverse effects resulting from the phenomenon. According to a male participant, 29, “Personally, I do not see any negative impact of this phenomenon on the local level. ” Three participants from Faculty of Environment rebutted this claiming that climate change had physical impact basing from the Jeddah flood of 2009. They said this because they themselves experience the flood as their homes were located within the zone where floods reached.
Hence, they believe that climate change have strong impact in their lives. As a result, one male participant, 33, said, “After my house was damaged, I begun reading on climate change and even follow TV programmes that talk about the phenomenon. ” Moreover, five participants noticed that summer became hotter than the previous and that winter is much colder than before. All of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environment seconded this observation as they have been briefed with the published annual reports noting the combined average annual temperature and rainfall in the region.
In addition, about 60 percent of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environmental Design observed some changes in the climate especially that summer became hotter, winter came in later than expected, and rainfall decreased in some regions of Saudi Arabia. Half of the administrative staff in the two faculties agrees with this observation. One male participant, 48, claimed, “I feel that the summer season now is hotter that the summer days in my childhood. ” Meanwhile, the rest did not notice any change in the climate.
Overall, a noticeable impact of climate change was noted by the group as evidenced by the effects locally such as the hot weather resulting to bigger demands in electricity, water crisis, physical and financial consequences, hotter summers, late winters, and decreased rainfall, and globally like the melting of polar ice caps, desertification, and coastal flooding. Needless to say, it is important to take a closer look at the situation of climate change at the local level for this affects the participants more strongly compared to what happens outside the region.
Hence, the researcher asked the participants to relate climate change to the incidents that has transpired locally. Majority of academic staff from the Faculty of Environment mentioned in particular the flood that happened in Jeddah. According to them this was a natural event that is linked to climate change. Also, they claimed that this was an exceptional case because the amount of rainfall in Jeddah on the day flood occurred was about 90 mm considering that the average rainfall during the last two decades was about 30 mm.
However, participants from the academic staff of the Faculty of Environmental Design had a different view. According to them, it may be true that climate change had something to do with the incident but it was not the biggest contributor in the flooding. They instead blamed the construction of buildings on the valley streams for the many physical, social, and economic impacts of the flood. Moreover, the three members from the administrative staff of the Faculty of Environment strongly linked climate change to the flooding as they were direct victims of the said incident as what was initially mentioned.
Nonetheless, majority of them thought that the flooding was a natural phenomenon and had nothing to do with climate change. One male participant, 47, claimed, “The topography of the area is the main cause of the natural disaster. The amount of rainfall had nothing to do with it. ” Nonetheless, it is important to note that some participants stressed that they had some doubt and confusion if the incident was in fact connected to climate change.
They said that their doubt was due to the media talking about climate change, explaining and showing dramatic photos of different events happening around the world but when they analyze the flooding in Jeddah, they see a big difference, thereby creating suspicion. Hence, looking at the local level, it is evident that the participants had opposing views. While some linked climate change with local incidents such as the flood in Jeddah, others did not see the connection of the said phenomenon to events that happened locally. Availability of information
It is likewise important to take into consideration how the participants acquire information on climate change for them to formulate views and opinions on the issue. Hence, the researcher asked where and in what ways the participants get data on climate change. Majority of the academic staff from the Faculty of Environment noted that they access information from scientific sources and noted that data about the phenomenon has increased dramatically. Others said they depend on information gathered from attending scientific conferences or from the media.
They also claimed they did not find any difficulty in understanding the terminologies related to the subject. However, the academic staff in the Faculty of Environmental Design had differing opinions. Some of them, mostly from the Department of Environmental Planning and the Department of Landscape Architecture, get information through books and articles on the subject and they further depend on this information heavily for their work. The others though acquire data on climate change either through the media or through seminars held in their college.
They further claimed that they find difficulty in understanding some of the terminologies related to climate change. Moreover, majority of the administrative staff in the Faculty of Environment noted that nowadays, there is an availability of and demand for information on natural phenomena especially climate change. They further get information from posters that are placed on bulletin boards, paper-based transactions, and the media. Participants from the Faculty of Environmental Design seconded this saying there is an increased amount of information on the issue especially after the tsunami and the Copenhagen Conference.
Furthermore, five participants claimed they acquire information about climate change from environmental campaigns in the college, in particular, the “No Pollution” campaign. Majority further said they found some climate change concepts difficult to understand such as carbon footprint and greenhouse gases. Some participants from the Faculty of Environmental Design iterated that part of the responsibility of those who provide information is to likewise provide readers, viewers, and listeners information about carbon dioxide emissions when buying cars.
Examining participants’ responses, it is clear that information on climate change is readily available. Nonetheless, it is important to note that not all of this information is easily understood by ordinary people. Hence, it is significant that information providers should be certain that they use layman’s terms in discussing about climate change for everyone to understand fully the concepts so they can in turn act accordingly.