Climate Change

Climate change is real & an emergency: 64% people voted so

People living in small island developing states showed highest support for climate action

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 28 January 2021

The world’s first and biggest public poll on climate change has found that sixty four per cent of people believe climate change is a global emergency.

The result of the Peoples’ Climate Vote was published on 27 January, 2021.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) surveyed 1.2 million people in 50 countries through mobile gaming apps that allowed greater reach including people under 18.

The respondents were asked if climate change was a global emergency and whether they supported 18 key climate policies across six action areas: Economy, energy, transport, food and farms, nature and protecting people. 

Unanimous support

Younger people (under 18 years) were more likely to say climate change is an emergency than older people. Other age groups were not far behind, with 65 per cent of those aged 18-35, 66 per cent aged 36-59 and 58 per cent of those over 60 concurring with the view.

The highest level of support for climate action — 74 per cent — was found in people living in small island developing states, the UNDP report said, followed by people in high-income countries (72 per cent). It stood at 62 per cent in middle-income countries. The least-developed countries saw the lowest level of support at 58 per cent.

Parsed region-wise, a majority across continents said climate change was a global emergency, with the highest level of agreement in western Europe and North America (72 per cent) and the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (61 per cent).

In eight of the 10 surveyed countries with the highest emissions from power sector, majority opted for more use of renewable energy. In four out of five countries with the highest emissions from land-use change, most supported conserving forests and land. Nine out of ten countries with the most urbanised population wanted a shift into cleaner modes of transportation like electric cars and buses or bicycles.  

The survey shows a direct link between a person’s level of education and their desire for climate action. There was a very high recognition of climate emergency among those who had attended university or college in all countries from low-income countries like Bhutan (82 per cent) and Democratic Republic of the Congo (82 per cent), to wealthy countries like France (87 per cent) and Japan (82 per cent).

The relatively low support for promotion of plant-based diets may be because there are few plant-based options in some countries, said UNDP. The support was the highest in Germany (44 per cent) and the United Kingdom (43 per cent)

Stephen Fisher, department of sociology, University of Oxford, said: 

“Recognition of the climate emergency is much more widespread than previously thought. We’ve also found that most people clearly want a strong and wide-ranging policy response.”

The publication of the survey comes as many countries are preparing for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

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