Climate change is seen as an emergency by the majority of people in an eight-country poll.
In a week when millions marched in “climate strike” demonstrations across the globe, respondents placed climate breakdown ahead of ahead of migration, terrorism and the global economy in seven out of the eight countries surveyed. The issue was third behind terrorism and affordable healthcare In the US.
The poll of than 1,000 people in the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Poland and the US found that three-quarters of the public think the world is facing a “climate emergency”, with climate breakdown at risk of becoming “extremely dangerous”.
The survey shows that there is widespread alarm with the view that the climate crisis is on the brink of spinning out of control. In the UK, 64% agree with the statement “time is running out to save the planet” compared to 74% in Brazil, 70% in Germany, and 57% in the US.
The overwhelming majority in each country – 74% in Britain – state that they are already seeing the influence of the climate crisis in extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, with about two-thirds saying this is a direct threat to ordinary people.
Many of those polled said that politicians are not tackling the problem, backing the interests of the oil industry over that of ordinary people. Few believe that governments are doing enough – only 23% in the UK, 20% in Germany, 23% in Brazil and 26% in the US agree that ministers are taking sufficient action.
The results increased the pressure on world leaders at the UN climate action summit in New York this week. But little in the way of radical response was seen.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and 15 other children on Monday filed a complaint with the United Nations alleging that five of the world’s major economies have violated their human rights by not taking adequate action to stop the unfolding climate crisis.
The survey, commissioned by Hope Not Hate campaign group, found that most people called for radical measures to cut emissions. These include more wind turbines and solar panels, more charge points for electric cars, and investing to create jobs in clean industries.
People also urge governments to force big polluters to pay for any environmental damage, although at least two-thirds said that politicians put the interests of big oil and gas corporations before those of local communities.
There was also support for stronger measures to cut emissions, such as increased taxes on frequent fliers, and stopping coal mining as well as oil and gas drilling.
Nick Lowles, from Hope not Hate, said that:
“people understand the scale of the problem and want governments to take the strong and decisive action that this emergency requires.”
“As an organisation dedicated to bringing communities together and challenging the politics of division, we believe that our leaders must take swift action on climate change so that environmental pressures do not become a source of hostility, anger and competition in our societies.”
Laurence Tubiana, the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said the findings in the poll underlined the growing support for immediate radical action.
“This poll reconfirms what the growing numbers of people striking for climate action are saying: We’re worried, we know we can do more, leaders, we need you to step up and unite behind the science.”
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