Obs'COP 23, what can we learn from this international climate survey?
Facing series of climate events, migrations are anticipated and climate skepticism is no longer growing. Without being more worried, populations are calling on governments to act, but without wanting to give up their lifestyles. A sort of “yes, but…” applied to the fight for the climate.
A key international player in the energy sector, committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, EDF presents the findings of a large-scale opinion study conducted for the 5th consecutive year by Ipsos in 29 countries* across all five continents, covering two-thirds of the world’s population and including the biggest CO₂ emitters. Every year, EDF produces an international report on opinions, knowledge, expectations and commitment levels with regard to climate change, to support reflection on the subject and contribute to the constructive search for future solutions
* Consult the methodoly page
The countries of the North, or even Asia, continue to claim that they are paying attention to the environment given the level of development of their economy and despite the inflation crisis and pressure from security- or migration-related themes, especially in Europe. In these countries, the fight against climate change is viewed as the absolute priority. But economic growth is still something that people do not want to give up on, seeking to reconcile it with environmental issues.
In the countries of the South, where the environment doubtless has a more negative impact on everyday life than it does in the North, given the level of infrastructures and the lower standard of living of their populations. However, unemployment, crime and corruption are wearing these countries down to such an extent that the environment is having to take a back seat. Likewise for the climate, whose consequences can be dramatic but which faces competition from pollution which, for now, seems to require more urgent action.
The level of individual concern about the climate is high since 43% are to be found on the two highest levels of the concern scale. But no changes can be measured in the past year on this indicator, which still shows South America as the most concerned, contrasting with Europe and North America.
Although these effects can be felt across the planet, climate change does not seem to be impacting the inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere with as much intensity as it is in the Southern countries. However, perceptions of climate events are very similar: high temperatures are being felt everywhere.
The French are particularly impacted by heatwaves and drought. But their memory seems to be fairly selective and they only recall the most recent disasters.
On a global level, it is more the accumulation of disasters than their nature that is giving cause for concern. Finally, one thing has been achieved: these disasters are now being attributed to climate change everywhere.
The intensification of climate disasters has caused a few changes in indicators relating to anxiety about the future, but not in proportions that reverse the ratios:
- 40% of the world’s population, especially in the Northern countries, continue to be divided over the future consequences of climate change
- 43% are very concerned, especially in the Southern countries, but this level has not progressed in the past year.
The vulnerability of countries to the consequences of climate disasters is felt deeply by inhabitants since it stimulates their level of concern about the phenomenon. Nevertheless, vulnerability to climate change does not influence fear of its future consequences, as though relativizing them served as a defense mechanism.
Climate skepticism is stagnating rather than regressing. Here again, it is holding up just as well in the vulnerable countries as it is in the more resilient ones. It may no longer be such a cause for alarm given that it has little influence on people’s attitudes.
Eco-anxiety affects 30% of the world’s inhabitants. It impacts Asians and Americans more than Europeans.
In the Southern countries, the fear of being forced to move somewhere else due to climate change is very real. There is also apprehension in certain Northern countries.
However, it is the fear of seeing an influx of large numbers of climate migrants that is causing great concern, particularly in countries already coping with migration pressure (including France) or that expect many people to be displaced domestically (India).
In the majority of countries questioned, the idea of welcoming refugees prompts a very clear rejection of populations coming from foreign countries.
The demand for people to change their lifestyle is increasingly reaching its limits. People believe that the key to saving the planet is in the hands of governments, and much less in the hands of citizens.
Nevertheless, they increasingly claim to be making an effort to switch to more eco-friendly consumption, particularly through less car use.
Europe has been forced to restrict energy use, but this now seems to be entering into habits. France appears to be at the cutting-edge of this movement, and likewise for limiting car use. However consumers need precise information so that they can focus their efforts on the real levers of decarbonization in their day-to-day usage.
The acceptability of climate policies, notably when they restrict individual freedoms, is the real black spot in this study:
- In countries with a high GDP especially, policies aimed at impacting cost or restricting freedom to circulate in a car are met with categorical rejection.
- The only openings concern a ban on short-haul flights and the ecological malus. But the carbon tax on energies, given the current inflationist context that all economies are experiencing, is out of the question, especially in Europe.
- Another tension point: challenging the existence of individual homes, which is unacceptable, particularly in France.
Some decisions concerning infrastructures are acceptable in quite a lot of countries, including France: no building of additional airports or highways.
The other types of climate policy, those focused on adapting to change, are not very visible to the international public, except in a few countries that seem to be pioneers and that tend to be located in Asia.
In the energy field, the situation has only really changed in relation to nuclear power, which continues to experience a return to favor, especially in Europe.