Is It Hot Out Here? Communicating Climate Change using Glacier National Park, Online Media, and Place Attachment

Dori L. Gorczyca, Gettysburg College

Environmental Studies Honors Thesis

Faculty Advisors: Prof. Salma Monani and Prof. Sarah Principato


According to the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), anthropogenic climate change is a reality. The atmosphere and oceans are warming, sea levels are rising, and greenhouse gas concentrations have increased (IPCC 2014). Despite this scientific consensus, roughly 35% of Americans are unconvinced that there is solid evidence for climate change (Pew Research 2014). One prominent strategy to effectively communicate climate change to the public is place attachment. According to Schweizer et al.’s paper (2013), place attachment is the concept that people are emotionally connected to specific landscapes, which can make them more willing to adopt conservation behaviors. The purpose of this study is to collect and utilize both scientific data regarding the ablating glaciers of Glacier National Park due to anthropogenic climate change and place attachment theory for online climate change communication. Specifically, I used these methods to develop a digital, interactive Wordpress website entitled “Is It Hot Out Here?” The site is designed to spread knowledge about climate change effects at Glacier National Park to a wider audience who may not be able to visit the park itself. Results show that the elevation of glaciers at the park are related significantly to the glacial area loss. Survey results to assess effectiveness of the project showed significant differences between climate change perceptions before and after viewing the website, with concern increasing. People are more likely to want to visit Glacier National Park after viewing the website. These results indicate that place attachment, awareness, and concern can be created using an online medium.