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17th Feb 2019

Europeans worry but do little about climate change

  • Arctic ice: Europeans worry about global warming but do little beyond sorting waste for recycling (Photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud /norden.org)

An overwhelming majority of Europeans - 62 percent - consider climate change the second most serious problem facing the world today, a fresh EU poll has shown. However, they have little appetite for turning green when it comes to their lifestyle.

"There is a clear gap between what citizens say and what citizens are doing about fighting climate change," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said on Thursday (11 September), while presenting the survey.

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Although 61 percent of Europeans say they are taking some kind of action against climate change, it is limited to minor personal or financial effort such as separating waste for recycling and reducing consumption of energy, water or throw-away products.

Mr Dimas cited two main reasons for the inactivity - a lack of information about the causes and consequences of climate change and a lack of decisiveness on the side of public and private sectors.

Four in ten Europeans feel poorly informed about the subject, with the commissioner describing the level as "disappointing." They also expect governments, companies and industries to lead by example and change their behaviour.

In total, some 60 percent of people believe global warming is not an unstoppable phenomenon and can be changed.

Cypriots most concerned; Czechs least

The survey was carried out in all 27 EU states as well as in Croatia, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in the Turkish Cypriot community. In total, it involved 30,170 people and cost €240,000.

Only the issue of poverty (68%) scores higher than climate change (62%) in citizens' minds as to which is the most serious global problem.

"It seems that European citizens are very interested about what's happening in the world, maybe they are little less selfish than we might have imagined if they give these problems such a high level of importance," said Italian Socialist Guido Sacconi, the chair of the European Parliament temporary committee on climate change.

Broken down by countries, Cypriots (96%), Greeks (90%) and Slovenians (80%) have shown the greatest concern about global warming. Citizens of the Czech Republic (45%), Portugal (47%) and Italy (47%) are on the bottom of the same chart.

In the Czech Republic, the most visible critic of the climate change discourse is the country's own president, Vaclav Klaus. He has repeatedly questioned the general belief that climate change is man-made and the value of the tools used to combat it.

"A few years ago, more people thought that it [global warming] was not caused by human activity, now almost everybody and the majority of scientists believe it is anthropogenic," commissioner Dimas told journalists, adding: "even [US] President Bush has come to accept it."

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