86 percent of surveyed coastal residents believe climate change is human-caused
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Europeans living in coastal areas support government policies to protect marine environments from climate-change impacts and named climate-related issues like coastal erosion and sea-level rise as recognizable threats.
The findings came from an extensive survey on environmental issues. The online sampling of 10,000 residents of 10 European countries — 1,000 from each of Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway and Estonia — revealed widespread concern about climate change, led by worries about sea level rise and coastal erosion.
Eighteen percent of the respondents named climate change as the single most important environmental problem facing the world. By comparison, poverty and lack of food and drinking water was chosen by 31 percent, international terrorism by 16 percent, and a global economic downturn by 12 percent.
Europeans are also much more inclined to recognize that climate change is caused entirely, mainly or in part by human activities, with 86 percent of the respondents holding that belief, while only 8 percent thought that climate change was mainly or entirely caused by natural processes; in the United States, about 32-36 percent hold this view.
Coastal residents of the UK and Ireland were especially sensitive to the potential threat of coastal erosion and sea-level rise, with about a quarter of the respondents from those countries naming those issues as threats.
More results from the poll:
• Asked to comment on a list of 15 environmental issues related to the coasts or seas, respondents from all 10 countries said they had the greatest confidence in their understanding of, and were most concerned about, coastal pollution, over-fishing and melting sea ice. In last place, only 14% said they were informed about acidification of the oceans. However, nearly 60% expressed concern about that issue.
• Italian respondents claimed the greatest concern about issues on the list; those from Norway, the Netherlands and Estonia, the least.
• Not surprisingly, respondents living near the sea claimed more understanding and concern about all 15 issues than those further inland. But in an apparent paradox, Italy, the most southerly of the 10 countries, expressed the most concern about melting Arctic sea ice while Norway, the most northerly, voiced the least concern.
• Surprisingly, citizens of the low-lying Netherlands worry less about inundation than the 10-nation average (61% of Dutch survey participants cited sea level rise and coastal flooding as concerns compared with 70% across all 10 countries). Meanwhile, Dutch participants trusted their government to deal with climate change adaptation issues more than citizens of the other countries studied. And, compared with all other countries, a lower proportion of Dutch respondents foresaw “major economic impacts from coastal flooding” within the next 20 years.
• The in-depth research complimenting the survey explains that public concern and awareness depends on the extent to which issues are visible, subject to personal experience, or pose a direct threat to human populations. More remote and distant impacts are shown to be of little relevance to people’s lives (such as ocean acidification). Even where there are already tangible and fairly immediate local implications, people still find it hard to make a personal connection with many marine climate change impacts. For instance, even people living in high risk areas seldom see themselves as personally at risk from sea level rise and associated coastal flooding.
• Asked when they thought particular climate change impacts would become apparent, over half of respondents in all 10 countries said ‘changes in the frequency of extreme weather events (e.g. storms),’ are already being felt.
• The poll found a high correlation between respondents who said they are more “concerned” about the impacts of climate change and those who said they think its impacts will come fairly soon. Those who declared themselves “highly concerned” tended to think they could already see these impacts happening. Females were more likely than males to say that impacts are already apparent and, in general, those under 24 and older than 65 were least likely to say that impacts are already apparent.
• Respondents’ estimates of sea level rise and temperature change were generally in accord with scientific forecasts, suggesting “some fundamental messages are reaching the public,” the survey report says. Citizens were able to accurately characterize changes in sea temperature that have occurred over the past 100 years, and they gave realistic predictions of anticipated sea temperature change as well as sea level rise in this century.
• Scientists working in universities or for environmental NGOs are trusted as a source of information about climate change impacts in the seas and ocean far more than government scientists or those working for industry.Men distrust all of the organizations and individuals listed more than women do, and in almost all cases, people over 35 expressed more distrust than those aged between 18 and 34.
• Personal actions taken by European citizens in response to marine climate change issues are shown to focus more on mitigating climate change (such as reducing energy use and using sustainable forms of transport) than adapting to its impacts (through protecting homes from flooding for example).
• Public support for actions by national governments and the European Union is shown to be highest for policies to protect and enhance marine environments (for example through tightening controls on pollution) and reducing carbon emissions, while measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change are ranked the lowest.
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, Summit County news Tagged: | Current sea level rise, Environment, Europe, European Union, global warming, man-made climate change, Netherlands, Norway, sea level rise, Summit County News