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Research reveals “climate-change complacency” across Europe

September 17, 2020

By Paul Homewood

 

If they’d asked me, I would have saved them the trouble!

 

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Most European citizens do not particularly care about climate change. That’s the striking finding from new research on the views of 70,000 randomly sampled European men and women. Only 5% described themselves as “extremely worried” about climate change. The climate and the environment ranked only fifth in people’s overall views about priorities. There was also scepticism that co-ordinated action, for example to cut personal energy use, would make much difference.

“It seems there is a chance the current generation will be content to sell their great grandchildren down the river,” said Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick, and senior author of the study – Do Europeans Care about Climate Change? An Illustration of the Importance of Data on Human Feelings.

He also pointed out that so-called desirability bias, which is the tendency for interviewees to feel compelled to shade their answers towards ‘politically correct’ ones, might mean the true level of worry about climate change is lower than indicated in the statistical surveys.

The study has implications for economists and policymakers, Oswald explains. “There is little point in designing sophisticated economic policies for combatting climate change until voters feel that climate change is a deeply disturbing problem. Currently, those voters do not feel that.”

Professor Oswald and Mr Adam Nowakowski of Bocconi University in Italy analysed data from two large-scale sources, the 2016 European Social Survey and the 2019 Eurobarometer survey. They found:-

  • Europeans do not exhibit high levels of worry about climate change, with 1 in 20 describing themselves as ‘extremely worried’
  • Europe’s citizens are more concerned with inward-looking issues seen as closer to home, such as inflation, the general economic situation, health and social security, and unemployment.
  • Europeans do not have a strong belief that joint action by energy users will make a real difference to climate change.
  • Women, young people, university graduates and city-dwellers show higher levels of concern about climate change.
  • People living in warmer European countries had higher levels of concern than those in the cooler North of the continent.

On the way to move forward, Oswald and Nowakowsi suggest parallels with the original government campaigns to cut smoking. They argue that it will be necessary to change people’s feelings about the problem of rising global temperatures. Just as education about the risks of smoking went hand-in-hand with graphic warnings and tax increases, governments should consider doing more to educate and alter people’s perceived level of worry about climate change.

Adam Nowakowski commented: “We should not conclude that Europe does not care at all about climate change. However, our analysis of the data does suggest that European citizens are not ready for policies which would have strongly negative consequences on their day-to-day lives – not least because we have found a low level of confidence in the usefulness of joint action.”

https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/research_reveals_climate-change

 

 

This is the key chart:

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The poll is pretty evenly split between “Worried” and “Not Worried”, with nearly half of the vote effectively “Don’t Knows”. As the authors point out, there is a so-called desirability bias, which is the tendency for interviewees to feel compelled to shade their answers towards ‘politically correct’ ones, might mean the true level of worry about climate change is lower than indicated in the statistical surveys. This probably means that the “Don’t Knows” are really  “Don’t Cares”.

 

 

There is also a poll ranking various societal issues, showing that only 16% counted climate/environment as one of the top two issues that concerned them most:

 

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In these sort of polls, environment is often misleadingly conflated with climate change. It is natural that the public will be concerned about pollution, water and air quality, and other genuine environmental problems. I suspect that if climate change had featured on its own, it would have featured close to the bottom of the list.

39 Comments
  1. September 17, 2020 10:51 am

    “Only 5% described themselves as “extremely worried” about climate change. The climate and the environment ranked only fifth in people’s overall views about priorities. There was also scepticism that co-ordinated action, for example to cut personal energy use, would make much difference”.

    1. That 5% will always exist in any statistical population regardless of the subject in question. If someone were to go around handing out valid cheques for $1 million 5% of those offered would refuse!
    2. Ranked 5th? As high as that? This is when these questionnaires trouble me. Were only 5 issues offered or were people allowed to rank 5 issues only? What was the wording of the question? This is important!
    3. Skepticism about coordinated virtue signalling, sorry action making no difference…..well seems there are MORE than 5% of the people out their who can think rationally and objectively and can count!

    I assume the political slime and activists looking to give us all a bad day all fit nicely into that 5%!

    • Curious George permalink
      September 17, 2020 6:28 pm

      5%: The number of people who practiced Education-Free Fridays.

  2. September 17, 2020 10:54 am

    Ooops! Something strange happened. My screen only showed the introductory text and only after I posted did the rest of the article appear so you can disregard my point no. 2 but the rest still hold.

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 17, 2020 10:55 am

    Interesting that 20k randomly selected respondents (rather than the self-selected ‘random’ representatives of XR’s People’s Assembly) should come to such a conclusion. Seems to put the lie to the XR claim that the young are so concerned. And, once again, I don’t expect to see Harrabin reporting on this.

  4. Jackington permalink
    September 17, 2020 10:59 am

    In the UK there seems a huge disconnect between what the public thinks about climate change and what all of their elected MPs think; the latter have gone hook line and sinker for the idea of doing everything that is needed regardless of cost or societal issues in order to stop it. The MPs are not listening.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      September 17, 2020 11:52 am

      A lot of trades people I meet such as mechanics, electricians etc think its all bollocks and offer unsolicited opinions to that effect. In my experience I have found that trades people have very good BS filters and are a good bell weather for the opinions of rational/sane part of the ordinary population.

      If the Sun newspaper goes on crusade against climate hysteria it will probably kill it off in the UK.

      • lorde late permalink
        September 17, 2020 5:34 pm

        without wishing to offer unsolicited advice, I’m a mechanic of over 40 year and I too think its all bollocks, as are electric cars.

      • Lorde Late permalink
        September 17, 2020 5:38 pm

        I like William Happer and Freeman Dyson’s points of view.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 17, 2020 12:30 pm

      The MPs are basically clapping seals for the party leadership. If they are in the governing party there are about 150 so called ministerial jobs which bring in extra cash and increased kudos to bolster their vanity so they will easily toe the line. Although with good ship Boris the Buffoon taking on water the rats will be jumping ship ready to suck up to the next Tory leader next year – or maybe he won’t even make it to Christmas.

      • September 17, 2020 7:37 pm

        Lord Late…. The late Freeman Dyson, a man who revelled in not having a PhD and his good friend Will Happer! I never have been one to personalise science but I make exception from both of these fine gentlemen. Are you aware that the mean minded progressives infesting the BBC chose not publish an obituary for Freeman Dyson, one of the greatest physicists in recent times and a great son of England? I can only assume this was because his physics was not alarmist enough for them. I contrast with the effusive obituary they gave to that snake Hansen a man who sold out on science years ago.

  5. September 17, 2020 11:32 am

    With any luck it’s a sign of the times and this thing is just dying out.

    • September 17, 2020 7:40 pm

      There are now too many jobs…. too many publicly funded pointless projects and initiatives. The people infesting those areas will make sure the ball keeps rolling otherwise they will be out of their worthless jobs.

  6. Robin Guenier permalink
    September 17, 2020 11:55 am

    Paul – you note (correctly) that ‘In these sort of polls, environment is often misleadingly conflated with climate change‘. But in this case it’s also conflated with ‘energy issues’. And there’s every reason to be extremely worried about energy issues.

    • September 17, 2020 12:33 pm

      That’s right – it’s a three way split

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        September 17, 2020 12:45 pm

        Paul, I’ve just sent the following email to Sheila Kiggins, Media Relations Manager at Warwick U:

        Your recent press release (‘Research reveals “climate-change complacency” across Europe’) is misleading. In Table 1. of the full report, ‘climate’ is conflated with both ‘the environment’ and ‘energy issues’. But it’s very possible – even likely – that someone could be worried about the environment (e.g. water or air quality) and/or energy issues (e.g. possible blackouts or increased costs) and not at all worried about the climate. Add to that the so-called ‘desirability bias’ (which you do mention) and it’s quite possible that Europeans really think ‘climate-change’ (considered on its own) is of very little societal importance.

    • Thomas Carr permalink
      September 17, 2020 6:10 pm

      Glad you are able to make the point to Sheila Kiggins. Prof. Oswald prefers to call the public complacent when sceptic would be nearer the truth. That would destroy his point, however.

      You will have noticed from what Paul has sent us in recent years the fault usually lies with the public and seldom with the academics who, in this instance, manage to express a strange certainty about such things as designing successful economic policies for combatting climate change.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        September 17, 2020 6:25 pm

        Yes – but Thomas Professor Oswald’s worry is that the public’s complacent about climate change because it’s not particularly concerned about it. My point is that it’s probably even less concerned than his (poorly drafted) survey indicated. Whether or not it’s sceptical is a separate point.

  7. Douglas Brodie permalink
    September 17, 2020 11:58 am

    Our current brigade of career politicians thrive on feeling that they are in control, that they alone can solve the problems facing humanity, real or imaginary. They feel they have to be seen doing something, even when their “solution” is totally unworkable or even counter-productive. We see it now in their unsustainable handling of Coronavirus causing huge collateral damage as we’ve seen it for years in their futile attempts to “tackle” alleged man-made global warming.

    We need an influx of realists to replace all the woke, impractical ideologues.

    • Mad Mike permalink
      September 17, 2020 3:25 pm

      Totally agree. When has there ever been more than one hymn sheet as far as CC is concerned. When you get someone with an alternative view or even someone who says “Hang on a minute, the predictions don’t seem to be coming to pass. Time to have another look at this.” they will be cancelled or torn to shreds on social media. Who would put themselves forwards for that?

      There is something very wrong in our society.

  8. Gerry, England permalink
    September 17, 2020 12:41 pm

    The environment, climate and energy issues

    That is trouble with surveys when 3 completely different things are lumped together. Yes, they are connected but if energy issues covers your ever-rising electricity bills and the forcing of energy intensive industry to close then lots of people will opt for that while not being in the least bothered by climate. Similarly there is lots of evidence that the environment is being damaged by climate alarmists so you would be concerned by that but not climate.

  9. Broadlands permalink
    September 17, 2020 1:45 pm

    “They argue that it will be necessary to change people’s feelings about the problem of rising global temperatures.”

    Indeed. When more people understand that the vertical axis on those upward trending global warming charts are temperature anomalies with respect to some 30 year base period and the total warming is less than one degree C, they might be even less likely to worry about the impending apocalypse that climate models predict. After over 200 years that 14.0°C is only 14.75°C at the end of 2019.

  10. terryfwall permalink
    September 17, 2020 1:55 pm

    The true “societal issues” in this list are just two, as all the others will continue to be addressed and managed more or less adequately over the next fifty years.

    Those two are unemployment and housing. We will have a large and unreduceable proportion of people without meaningful occupations and they will mostly be those who have no way to afford anything more than basic accommodation, still less to buy their own homes. This is the real issue that will cause the maximum level of discontent, as well as being morally wrong, but is having the least amount of concentrated strategic attention.

    It is vital to put significant efforts into planning what the shape of society might be in that timeframe and take steps to ensure that we are prepared for the sort of future lives that will result. For example, a tax regime that motivates organisations to employ people part-time, an education system that teaches students to fill their spare time in fulfilling ways, programmes for building attractive houses at affordable prices and ensuring they are not rented out by private landlords at levels that prevent occupants saving for their own property.

  11. David Calder permalink
    September 17, 2020 2:07 pm

    A good number of those worried about env / climate and energy might be worried that the present direction of travel could see the grids across the EU collapse.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 17, 2020 2:08 pm

    Lindsay Hoyle wants you locked down until you comply with climate religion.

    • September 17, 2020 3:55 pm

      until voters feel that climate change is a deeply disturbing problem

      It’s the climate-obsessed politicos and the alarmists who are ‘deeply disturbed’ about the climate, or claim to be. But their professed reasons are nonsense.

  13. Mack permalink
    September 17, 2020 3:03 pm

    O/T Paul but there’s a very good article over at Spiked Online by Babatunde Williams on ‘Ontario’s Green Energy Catastrophe’. It’s well worth a read. Predictable green nightmare imposed on the natives with miserable results.

  14. September 17, 2020 3:12 pm

    Sir David whatshisname can wake them up with one riveting speech about the end of the world.

    https://wp.me/pTN8Y-4qE

  15. September 17, 2020 3:28 pm

    O/T .. Goole, East Yorkshire .. BBC news making out that 2 schools are doing road closure measures to save kids from Air Pollution
    Really ? ..both schools are rural aerial photos

  16. Mad Mike permalink
    September 17, 2020 3:32 pm

    An encouraging sign here is this

    “It seems there is a chance the current generation will be content to sell their great grandchildren down the river,” said Andrew Oswald, one of the authors of the report. Obviously he is not unbiased and even he was unable to disguise the findings although he was trying by lumping CC in with environmental issues.

    Quelle dommage Andrew.

  17. Dan permalink
    September 17, 2020 4:14 pm

    Or even the 2013 report ukerc.ac.uk › publications › Transforming the UK Energy System – Public Values, Attitudes …

    The report questioned a lot of people (000’s if memory serves). One of the main outcomes (after you get past the glossy crap) was people were unwilling to fly, drive and eat meat less, despite accepting that these cause co2 emissions and saying they were concerned about co2.

    The requirement was always pushed elsewhere i.e. end business flights etc etc.

  18. johnbillscott permalink
    September 17, 2020 4:42 pm

    A dead give away is Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioral Science at the University of Warwick. Behavior is not a science it is one of the popular waste of money Studies genre and secondly Warwick is a second rate Uni.

    Polls are designed backwards. Start with the result you want then form the questions to elicit the desired response, but it does not always work as all political polls have been so far out in the predictions. This poll shows that ordinary people, who are the majority, are awake and aware of the problems they face while the woke teachers, including so called Professors, in their exclusive mutual admiration bubble, are divorced from reality much like politicians and Globalists.

  19. A C Osborn permalink
    September 17, 2020 4:55 pm

    Paul, remember the 2015 UN Global Survey.
    Plus there was a recent US one that showed the same.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 17, 2020 5:18 pm

      This one … the one that conveniently puts “Action on taken climate change” at the head of the list?

      The one that requests respondent’s age – from a drop-down list going from1 to 140! 😀

      http://vote.myworld2015.org

      Here’s a screen capture of the then results I took two years ago;

  20. jack broughton permalink
    September 17, 2020 6:39 pm

    An American survey by Inerjys, using Harris Polls, in May found a similar low interest in the junk-science. They said that less than 40% wanted investment in “climate technology”. They concluded that more brainwashing of the masses was needed to “educate” them about the dangers!

  21. Robert Christopher permalink
    September 17, 2020 6:50 pm

    And all the while, preparations ARE being made:

    Government mulls emergency measures that would enable networks to SWITCH OFF your electricity without warning or compensation
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-8706033/Smart-meters-used-switch-electricity-without-warning-compensation.html

    I wonder why they would need to do that!? 🙂

    • Mack permalink
      September 17, 2020 7:59 pm

      We all know why they would need to that because, in Green Nirvana, there won’t be enough electricity to go around but, I thought, many existing smart meters already have the technology installed to brown or black out customers should the provider see fit without upgrading the meter. Perhaps an expert on these pages can enlighten me?

  22. September 17, 2020 7:50 pm

    YET surprisingly by contrast we have this..ahem “Assembly” of 108 people in the UK
    (supposedly we are told made up of people chosen at random) who all strangely seem to sing with one voice only vying with each other when it comes to dreaming up ever more pointless and asinine ways to save the planet! We never hear any disenting voices, have those scallywags been sent to the naughty step and excommunicated?

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/climate-assembly-parrots-green-party-demands/

  23. September 17, 2020 10:16 pm

    The authors of the study add helpfully:

    On the way to move forward, Oswald and Nowakowsi suggest parallels with the original government campaigns to cut smoking. They argue that it will be necessary to change people’s feelings about the problem of rising global temperatures. Just as education about the risks of smoking went hand-in-hand with graphic warnings and tax increases, governments should consider doing more to educate and alter people’s perceived level of worry about climate change.

    But there is no problem of rising global temperatures, as there’s been virtually no warming for 20 years. Temperatures have gone up during the last ten years due to El Ninos and they’ve gone right back down again. Earlier, they rose mildly from about 1910 to 1940, went down, and rose again from 1970 to 1990. Nothing untoward about it, then the IPCC started telling us it was our fault.

    But — and mark this — they never stated a reason. Every Assessment Report has given different reasons for the alleged dangerous warming to come. In the absence of a reason to worry, altering people’s feelings and their level of anxiety is extremely difficult. When you supply proof of the problem there’s nothing else to do: people change their feelings by themselves.

    Turning this around, the absence of anxiety simply proves that no proof has emerged to cause any. Evidence is singularly successful is persuading people a thing is true. These activists just have no evidence.

    I know for a fact that the IPCC have no proof of a dangerous human influence on the climate because I asked them for it and they gave me none. Their reports are just scientific waffle. No evidence means no science.

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