Support for climate change in Europe

8 March 2017

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The first and most in-depth analysis of climate change opinions in some of Europe’s largest countries has revealed an overwhelming belief that climate change is happening.

A new report, released today (8 March), reveals that the majority of people in four countries surveyed – UK, France, Germany and Norway – also support a range of different measures to combat climate change.

The survey of over 4,000 members of the public in countries which are central to climate policy explored opinions on climate change, climate policy and future energy options.

The survey was co-ordinated by researchers at Cardiff University in collaboration with the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Institut Symlog in France, the University of Bergen and the Rokkan Centre in Norway, and Climate Outreach in the UK.

A strong scientific consensus on climate change

Results showed that the majority (over 80% in all 4 countries) believe that the world’s climate is changing, and a similar proportion think that it is at least partly caused by human activity.

Just under two thirds (60%) believe that we are already feeling the effects of climate change, and survey respondents associate the main effects with disruption to weather in their country, such as more storms and floods, unpredictable weather, and hotter or dryer spells.

Only minority percentages (24% in Germany, 30% UK, 33% France, and 35% in Norway) believe that there is a strong scientific consensus on climate change.

Majorities in all four countries support using public money to prepare now for the impacts of climate change, and to help developing nations cope with extreme weather, whilst majorities of more than 70% in all countries support using public money to subsidise renewable energy sources.

For the first time the survey probed Europeans’ beliefs about suggestions heard during 2016 of a possible link between climate change and the migration of refugees.

A clear majority in all four countries dispute that climate change is one of the causes of the high number of refugees coming to Europe; however, 30% (in the UK), 37% (France), 39% (Germany) and 57% (in Norway) did think that climate change will lead to more migration to their country in the future.

“Low levels of climate scepticism”

Professor Nick Pidgeon of the School of Psychology who led the project commented: “It is encouraging to see that most people in this very large study recognise that climate change is happening, and that support for the need to tackle it remains high amongst the people we surveyed. Indeed, there were only low levels of climate scepticism present in any of our four nations...”

“With the recently shifting political mood in some countries, climate policy is now entering a critical phase. It is therefore even more important that the public’s clear support shown in this survey for the Paris Agreement in 2015 is carried through by policymakers across Europe and worldwide.”

Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Director of the Understanding Risk Research Group

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