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25th May 2019

Poles least worried about climate change

  • Coal miners produce almost 90 percent of the Poland's electricity (Photo: MEDIA WNET)

Polish citizens have become less concerned about climate change in the past five years, and are the least concerned, of the EU's six largest member states, that climate change will cause them personal harm, according to a survey by American think tank Pew, published on Thursday (5 November).

The researchers found that Europeans are more concerned about climate change than Americans and Chinese. The most concerned citizens are from Latin America and Africa.

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Pew interviewed over 45,000 people in 40 countries, including EU members Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, and Poland.

For many of the survey's questions, the responses from Poland stood out compared to those from the western European nations.

Poland was the only European country – apart from Russia – where the group of people who think global climate change “is a very serious problem” has shrunk.

In 2010, 31 percent of those surveyed in Poland held that view, while in 2015, only 19 percent do. Russia had a similar decrease, from 43 to 33 percent.

Meanwhile, citizens in France, which will host this year's climate conference in Paris, have become more concerned, with the “very serious” group growing from 46 percent to 56 percent.

Three percent of Poles even said that climate change doesn’t exist - in voluntary statements, which weren’t prompted by a Pew question.

They were also less likely to support Poland limiting its emissions of greenhouse gases. In the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, between 78 and 91 percent said their country should reduce emissions, while 63 percent of Polish respondents supported that idea, and 20 percent opposed it.

The results may, partly, explain why the conservative Law and Justice party recently won parliamentary elections.

It has vowed to protect the country's coal sector, which is the most polluting of the fossil fuels, but which produces almost 90 percent of Poland’s electricty and employs 100,000 people.

Lifestyle changes

In the EU countries, Polish respondents said most often (33 percent) we could rely on technology to reduce the effects of climate change, although a larger group (49 percent) said people have to make “major changes in the way they live.”

Eighty three percent of French people said lifestyle changes are necessary.

Compared to the rest of the world, Europeans and North Americans are much less worried they will personally feel the affects of climate change in their lifetime.

In Poland, Germany, and the UK, between 15-19 percent were “very concerned.” The group was larger in France, Spain, and Italy (35-37 percent).

However, those figures pale in comparison to developing countries like Uganda (88 percent very concerned), Brazil (78 percent), Burkina Faso (77 percent), and the Philippines (75 percent).

Pew also found there are “deep ideological divides” in the EU and US on the issue.

In Italy, those who say they are left-wing said more often climate change is a “very serious problem” than those on the right (69 percent versus 42 percent).

There were similar left-right differences in France (70-49), UK (53-34) and Spain (60-46). In Poland, those on the left and right were less worried than those who described themselves as moderates.

The difference in the US between liberals and conservatives was even greater, with a 38 percentage-point divide.

Populist right-wingers set to win Polish election

Surveys ahead of Sunday’s elections in Poland show the right-wing Law and Justice party surging ahead, in a development which could spell trouble for Polish solvency and EU relations.

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