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UK’s concern over climate crisis is ‘at all time high’ as crucial COP26 summit commences

UK’s concern over climate crisis is ‘at all time high’ as crucial COP26 summit commences

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According to the latest analysis of public attitudes by leading experts on society’s needs to address the crisis, the UK has shown record levels of concern about the climate crisis.


The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations at Cardiff University (CAST), released its findings at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties. This conference is being viewed as a “make-or-break” moment in a crucial decade for the planet’s fate.

A poll of over 1,000 adults revealed that concerns about climate change are at an all time high in the UK. More than half (45%) now report they are “very” or “extremely worried.” This is an increase on the 39% in 2020 and 25% in 2016.

More than half (50%) agree that “drastic actions” are needed to address the problem. Government action and individual behavior changes are seen as the most important steps to effective climate action. Technology solutions, including winding down businesses or climate protest, are less important.

In a briefing paper out todayCAST researchers state that the results are the most clear indication yet that people recognize the urgent need to take action to improve our current way of living.

“Public concern over climate change and its implications has been consistently on the rise in the UK over the last few years—and this most up-to-date insight into citizens’ views delivers a very clear message at a pivotal moment for the climate emergency,” said lead author Dr. Katharine Steentjes, a co-investigator at CAST.

“We hope the world leaders meeting in Glasgow will hear this message: Now is the time to take concrete and coordinated action on the environment.

CAST polled more than 4,000 adults across four countries—the UK, China, Sweden and Brazil—and found similar patterns of public opinion across most of the issues surveyed.

It was:

  • Many people in the UK, China and Sweden are very or extremely worried about climate change (40-50 percent) and want to see urgent action (55-58 percent). In Brazil, climate change worry and feelings of urgency are higher (75 percent worry, 85 percent high urgency);
  • 70% of people in the UK, 66% in Sweden, 74% China, and 84 percent Brazil agree that climate change must be addressed. Walking, cycling and using public transport are seen as the most effective way to tackle climate change in all four countries. People are less aware about strategies like eating less red meat and reducing their purchases, especially in China.
  • Across all four countries, there is majority (69 percent UK, 66 percent Sweden, 76 percent China, 67 percent Brazil) support for the international Paris Agreement to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius;
  • While government, industry, and businesses are the most responsible actors for initiating climate action, most people feel a strong personal responsibility.

Dr. Steentjes said: “As start to discuss how they want to fulfill the international commitment to avoid the worst of the climate crisis, it is important to understand what citizens think needs to happen—and what they expect from their respective governments.

“Our results show that people all over the globe are concerned about our results.” They feel the effects, but they also recognize that urgent action is needed from their governments and themselves to change the current way of living.

“Policymakers should be aware that citizens expect their governments take responsibility and make changes towards effective climate action. However, a large number of people feel a personal responsibility to do something.

“Both action and behavior change is needed—and will reassure decision-makers that many people are willing to enter discussions around how citizens and governments together can solve the challenge that the All of us are at risk from the effects of crisis. This is an important point to remember for governments who care about citizens’ willingness and ability to make changes to their existing way of life.

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Provided by
Cardiff University

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UK’s public concern over climate crisis is ‘at an all-time high’ as crucial COP26 summit starts (2021, November 2)
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