Ipsos-EDF poll finds (partial) consensus on climate change

27 November 2019

People in prosperous nations worldwide tend to live well beyond levels the planet can sustain. We prefer diets that are produced with grave environmental impacts and we waste enormous amounts of food.

We consume goods endlessly, buying new things constantly and discarding still perfectly workable ones. As a result, we end up generating colossal amounts of waste, much of which remains unrecycled. Our high-powered lifestyles come at the cost of high CO2 emissions, and our travel for leisure also leaves a giant carbon footprint.

Not surprisingly, climate experts stress that efforts to combat manmade climate change won’t succeed without changes in our lifestyles. Encouragingly, more and more people agree.

According to a new Ipsos-EDF survey, which was conducted among 24,000 people in 30 countries, 53% of respondents agreed with the statement that a solution to combating climate change must involve a change in lifestyles. By comparison, only 29% of those polled placed their trust in technological progress and only one out of 10 respondents saw innovations as the primary solution.

A surprising finding is that while most people in many of the countries surveyed agree that climate change is happening and that we are its primary cause, signification portions of respondents in some of the world’s most prominent fossil fuel-producing countries disagree. In Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer of oil, 59% of those polled said they did not believe that climate change was happening or that people were causing it. In Norway 49% of respondents expressed this view while in Australia, the 4th largest producer of coal, 45% of them did so.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, opinions remain divided and uninformed when it comes to energy. While 61% of respondents accurately blame greenhouse gas emissions as a primary cause of climate change, and two-thirds of respondents accurately identify China and the US as the largest emitters, only 59% identified electricity production as a major source of CO2. By comparison, 85% saw industry and transportation as sectors primarily responsible for CO2 emissions. 53% wrongly believe nuclear energy produces CO2 emissions, and 45% believe renewable energy sources are already powering their communities – which, sadly, is not the case more often than not.

On the question of the degradation of their country’s natural environment, on the other hand, there was robust consensus among respondents. In Chile 80% of people said their nation’s environment was in trouble, while in France 70% of respondents did so. Many more people said they were worried about the environment than five years ago: as many as 93% in Colombia and 79% in France.

Meanwhile, on the question of who was responsible for finding solutions to heal their nation’s environment, 70% of respondents said they thought it was the government’s job. Less than half (45%) said it was primarily citizens’ responsibility while only a third (32%) said it was up to businesses to take charge on the issue.

Even so, fully 55% of respondents indicated they had already changed their lifestyles or consumption habits, even if the numbers are less promising when it comes to specifics. 48% of those who took the survey said they recycled consistently, while only 40% focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables and only a third limit their use of heating and cooling systems at home.

Shockingly, young people appear to be less diligent than their parents when it comes to proactive actions like recycling. Across all generations, however, no more than 18% of respondents said they were avoiding taking their car to get around.

According to Ipsos and EDF, this groundbreaking survey will now provide a benchmark for global attitudes that can be revisited and updated every year. Will governments respond to the global public’s clear expectation that they take the lead? If not, the percentage of respondents putting the onus on their shoulders may only grow in future iterations of the poll.

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