Governments should prioritize climate change despite economic concerns, the survey finds


More than 60 percent of respondents in France, Spain and Italy say governments should prioritize fighting global climate change despite competing concerns such as inflation, the energy crisis or nuclear threats from Russia, according to a YouGov poll published on Thursday.

Government action to curb global warming should be a major concern despite inflation, an energy crisis and nuclear showdown from Russia, according to a YouGov survey in rich countries published exclusively by AFP.

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The survey, conducted ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, found that more than half of respondents in France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US said stopping global warming should be a “key priority” regardless of the state of the economy.

Thirty percent said it should be “paused” so that other problems can be addressed.

“This survey shows that there is much more common ground among the public about climate change and what to do about it than what we often see on our TV screens and Twitter feeds,” said Luke Tryl, UK director of More in Common, a nonprofit survey of polarization in society.

But the survey also revealed differences in outlook between the six nations, which may indicate that people in rich economies hit hardest by climate impacts see the problem as more urgent, compared to rich countries that are less affected.

More than 60 percent of respondents in France, Spain and Italy said the fight against global warming should not give way to other problems, but just under 40 percent held this view in Germany, Britain and the United States.

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“Lack of trust” in politicians

Germany and Britain have seen episodes of flooding and extreme heat, but the Mediterranean basin – a “hotspot” for climate change according to the UN’s climate science advisory body IPCC – has been hammered by heatwaves, droughts and bushfires, all of which are predicted to worsen.

Two to three times as many respondents in each country said that climate change will cause “a large amount” of damage to the world in the future, compared to whether they will personally experience damage.

It possibly reflects the extent to which people in rich countries are insulated from serious consequences.

When respondents were asked if they had already personally experienced weather events caused by climate change, 48 to 58 percent in Spain, Italy and France said they had, compared to 44, 38 and 36 percent in the UK, US and Germany respectively.

The United States was in many ways an outlier in the survey, which polled between 1,000 and 2,000 people in each country.

Despite a crescendo of extreme weather measurably linked to U.S. warming — including intense drought in the Southwest, record-breaking wildfires in the Northwest, floods and droughts in the Midwest, and devastating hurricanes on the East Coast — just under half of Americans believe human activity has caused the Earth’s climate to change.

That figure rises to an average of almost 80 percent in the European countries and to 84 and 88 percent respectively in Spain and Italy.

Opinions in the United States on this issue were evenly distributed across age, gender, and self-identified race, but were heavily skewed by political affiliation.

More than 80 percent of those who voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 said global warming is man-made, compared to just a quarter of those who voted for Donald Trump, who announced this week that he would take another shot at the White House in 2024 .

Across the board, people said political leaders were not doing enough to fix the climate, the survey found.

“There is a shared lack of confidence in their national government’s ability to address this crisis,” Tryl said.

To protect future generations

Almost 40 percent of respondents said the government’s policies to reduce carbon emissions would have a “positive impact” in the long term, while only 14 percent said such policies would improve things in the short term.

About 90 percent of the total respondents said they believe the climate is changing, while the rest said they don’t, or didn’t know.

However, when asked if they were sure their governments were “prepared to take the necessary measures to stop climate change”, two-thirds of respondents who believe the climate is changing answered “no” in European countries. In the US it was 40 percent.

“Politicians aren’t necessarily on board,” said Amiera Sawas, director of programs and research at Climate Outreach in the UK, which works with the survey data.

By a wide margin, the main reason for taking action against climate change was to protect future generations, with between 40 and 50 percent giving it as a motive.

Protecting habitats and species from further damage was the second most common response.

After COP27, a UN biodiversity summit tasked with setting new targets to protect nature will gather in Canada in early December.

(AFP)

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