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Two-thirds of people support limiting air travel to tackle climate change

18 September 2019

People walking towards plane

Addressing climate change requires a ‘high’ or ‘extremely high’ level of urgency, say more than three in five people.

Two-thirds of people also support limiting air travel in order to address climate change, whilst just over half are in support of reducing the amount of meat in our diets.

This is according to results from a YouGov poll commissioned by a brand new UK research centre set up to examine the social and behavioural changes needed for a low-carbon and sustainable society.

Led by scientists from Cardiff University, the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) will explore ways in which people can act directly to reduce their own carbon emissions, as well as influence other people, organisational decisions, and policies.

The centre has also been praised by climate activist Greta Thunberg who, in a special recorded message, described CAST as ‘extremely important and essential’ to helping achieve the drastic changes in our lifestyles to combat the climate crisis.

The £5m ESRC-funded centre is a collaboration between Cardiff, Manchester, York and East Anglia Universities, as well as the charity Climate Outreach.

Launching today at a special event held at Cardiff University, the Centre aims to become a global hub for understanding the profound changes required to address climate change, with a focus on four areas: food and diet; transport and mobility; consumption of goods; and heating and cooling.

To coincide with the launch, new findings have been released from research carried out in August 2019 assessing the public perceptions of climate change in the UK.

A total of 2,018 people were surveyed, which revealed that the urgency of climate change was recognised by the majority of respondents.

  • More than three out of five people (62%) said that addressing climate change requires a ‘high’ or ‘extremely high’ level of urgency
  • A majority (61%) supported the UK Parliament’s declaration of a ‘climate emergency’, with only 11% opposing this.
  • Two-thirds of people (67%) felt that we should limit air travel in order to address climate change, whereas only 22% felt we do not need to do so.
  • Just over half of the respondents (53%) were of the view that we should reduce the amount of meat in our diets to address climate change, whereas 37% felt we do not need to do so.

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations said: “We are very excited to be launching CAST. The Centre will aim to put people at the heart of the transformations required to address climate change, and seek to find ways in which we can live better as well as in low-carbon and sustainable ways.

“Cardiff University, together with our partners in Manchester, East Anglia, and York Universities, and charity Climate Outreach, will be working with a range of private-, public- and third- sector partners to understand how to transform lifestyles, organisations and social structures in order to achieve a low-carbon future.

“Our new survey findings make clear that most people feel climate change is an urgent issue, and are willing to make significant changes to their own lifestyles to help tackle it. Changing travel and food habits are amongst the most impactful thing individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint – it’s very encouraging that there’s support amongst the public for making these changes.”

Professor Jennifer Rubin, executive chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “This is a really important Centre to be funding because of its strong focus on developing and testing effective approaches to communicating climate change and its effects. Despite the urgent need to tackle climate change, researchers know that people rarely talk about it on a day-to-day basis – this means opportunities for meaningful dialogue and practical responses relevant to people’s everyday lives are missed.”

At the Centre’s launch speakers from Cardiff University, the Economic and Social Research Council, and National Assembly for Wales shared their views on how people can live differently in ways that meet the urgent need for rapid and far-reaching emission reductions.

The event concluded with an awards ceremony for the winners of the Centre’s Young Persons Photography Competition.