The climate crisis is alarming, but most citizens believe they are doing more than anyone, including their government. A survey from around the world found that few people are willing to make major lifestyle changes.
“The widespread awareness of the importance of the climate crisis illustrated in this study has yet to be coupled with a proportionate willingness to act,” the survey of 10 countriesBeamed from the United States, UK and France.
Emmanuel Rivière, director of international polling at Kantar Public, said the survey, carried out in late September and published to coincide with the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, contained “a double lesson for governments”.
They have, first, “to measure up to people’s expectations,” Rivière said. “But they also have to persuade people not of the reality of the climate crisis – that’s done – but of what the solutions are, and of how we can fairly share responsibility for them.”
The survey revealed that 62% of those surveyed viewed climate change as the most pressing environmental challenge facing the world, ahead of pollution (39%), the effects of waste (38%), and new diseases (36%).
But when asked to rate their individual action against others’ such as governments, business and the media, people generally saw themselves as much more committed to the environment than others in their local community, or any institution.
About 36% rated themselves “highly committed” to preserving the planet, while only 21% felt the same was true of the media and 19% of local government. Only 18% felt that their local community was equally engaged, while 17% and 13% viewed national governments (17%) as less committed.
Respondents were also reluctant about doing more for themselves, citing many reasons. The majority (76%) of respondents across the 10 countries surveyed said they would accept stricter regulations and environmental laws, but nearly half (46%) said that they didn’t feel any need to change their lifestyles.
Only 51% of respondents said they would take individual climate action. 14% said they would not, and 35% said they would. People in Poland Singapore56 percent were most willing to take action, while 44%) and 37 (37%) were the least.
The most common reasons given for not being willing to do more for the planet were “I feel proud of what I am currently doing” (74%), “There isn’t agreement among experts on the best solutions” (72%), and “I need more resources and equipment from public authorities” (69%).
Other reasons for not wanting to do more included “I can’t afford to make those efforts” (60%), “I lack information and guidance on what to do” (55%), “I don’t think individual efforts can really have an impact” (39%), “I believe environmental threats are overestimated” (35%) and “I don’t have the headspace to think about it” (33%).
When asked which actions should be prioritized to save the planet, respondents tended to give more importance to those that are already well-established, require less effort from individuals, or have little direct responsibility.
About 57%, for example, said that reducing waste and increasing recycling was “very important”. Other priorities included reversing deforestation (54%), conserving endangered animal species (52%), building efficient buildings (47%), replacing fossil fuels (45%), and increasing recycling.
Respondents viewed measures likely to affect their own lifestyles, however, as significantly less important: reducing people’s energy consumption was seen as a priority by only 32%, while favouring public transport over cars (25%) and radically changing our agricultural model (24%) were similarly unpopular.
Only 23% believed that reducing air travel and charging more for products not in compliance with environmental norms was important to save the planet. However, banning fossil fuel vehicles (22%), reducing meat consumption (18%), and international trade (17%) were viewed as lower priorities.
“Citizens are undeniably concerned by the state of the planet, but these findings raise doubts regarding their level of commitment to preserving it,” the study said. “Rather than translating into a greater willingness to change their habits, citizens’ concerns are particularly focused on their negative assessment of governments’ efforts.”
Representative samples of over 1,000 people were taken and questioned in the USA, UK, Spain Spain, France, France, and the Netherlands. Germany, Sweden. Poland. Singapore. New Zealand.
Except for Sweden, people gave themselves the highest score of commitment. Only in Singapore or New Zealand were national governments viewed as highly engaged. The gulf between citizens’ view of their own efforts (44%) and that of their government (16%) was highest in the UK.