Survey: ‘climate change still seen as most pressing global issue’
People in Europen still consider climate change the biggest issue mankind is confronted with. Despite the worldwide pandemic crisis. That is the conclusion of a new survey conducted in seven European countries and commissioned by Vattenfall.
Most serious problem
Vattenfall is a Swedish multinational power company owned by the Government of Sweden. Beyond Sweden, the company generates power in Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The company’s name is Swedish for ‘waterfall’, and is an abbreviation of its original name, Royal Waterfall Board.
Vattenfall earlier published a report, in December 2019 to be more specific, which explored people’s attitudes and emotional responses to the conversation on climate change. The first research showed that climate change is seen as the most serious problem in the world, ahead of any other major global issue like poverty, wars, or economic recession.
The new survey carried out in June 2020, completes the earlier report. Its main purpose was to find out if and how people’s views on climate change would have changed in the wake of the corona crisis.
While there is an important increase in people’s concern about epidemics and economic recession, almost one third (28%) of people in Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and the United Kingdom indicate that they see climate change as the most pressing global issue today.
No less than 68% (December) described to be ‘quite’ or even ‘a great deal’ worried about climate change, in June, this was 69%. So, the results of the latest survey remain fairly stable when compared to the previous study. Climate change, therefore, seems to have established itself in the mind of European citizens as a ‘durable worry’.
The original study showed that 64% of 55-64-year-olds were worried, compared to 74% of those aged 16-24. The same pattern was seen in the results of the following study: 69% among the 55-64-year-olds, and 72% among those aged 16-24.
Businesses and energy companies
The results show that people expect a long-term commitment from all actors involved: governments, businesses, energy companies, and individuals alike. Most respondents (57%) are convinced that the highest priority should be given to continuing or increasing climate change commitments.
Most respondents believe that businesses and energy companies are best positioned to tackle climate change. 42% see a strong role for governments and only 26% see individuals as most able to slow down climate change.
The majority of coverage in the media is negative (61%), sometimes factual (38%), sometimes more emotional (23%). National and international coverage is usually negative; positive stories are more prominent in local news.
How does this affect our (social) behavior? The strong presence of negative news makes people feel more anxious, angry, and even powerless. Both studies showed that 41% indicate that the feeling of anxiety has become a durable emotion.
Drive to act
Between 33% and 35% of respondents experience a wider spectrum between anger and anxiety, and 27% feel powerless to do anything to stop climate change. Those who remain positive show a higher level of inspiration and hope to tackle climate change.
The initiator of the survey, Vattenfall, consulted the American psychologist and expert in climate change psychology and eco-anxiety, Renee Lertzman, for the report, and this is what she said: “The results clearly indicate that our concern and duty of care for the world can be awakened in times of a global crisis. They also show that durable worries and anxieties can lead to a positive thing: they can drive us to action.”
Eco-anxiety is defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Several recent academic papers and reports show that eco-anxiety has exploded across the Western world, and the findings of the Vattenfall surveys confirm this is true for the seven countries examined.
Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall, concludes: “It is clear that our emotions toward climate change remain unchanged even in the wake of a global health crisis. As a company that produces and supplies energy, we have an important part to play. That’s what this report makes clear.”
“We are fully committed to make fossil-free living possible within one generation. And we will help partners and industries to electrify transport and processes, and, thereby, replace fossil fuels.”