Four-fifths of UK people think climate change is a global emergency – survey

Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
·4 min read

More than four-fifths of people in the UK think climate change is a global emergency, the highest level of concern across 50 countries in a worldwide poll.

More than 1.2 million people around the world took part in the “people’s climate vote” conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and University of Oxford, including more than half a million under-18s.

Although the survey took place last autumn as the pandemic continued to rage, there was widespread recognition of the global climate emergency – among older people as well as the young.

Conserving forests, using renewables, adopting climate-friendly farming techniques, and investing more money in green business were the most popular options for tackling the crisis.

Among those who believed in the climate emergency, a majority across almost all countries wanted all the necessary action taken urgently.

The survey, which reached people via adverts on popular mobile gaming apps, showed that overall 64% of respondents thought climate change was a global emergency, ranging from 69% of under-18s to 58% of over-60s.

The figure climbed to 81% among those in the UK and in Italy, who topped the poll, while at least half of respondents in all countries said they thought there was a global climate emergency.

A solar farm from above
Using renewables such as solar was the most popular climate fix for those in the UK (Steve Parsons/PA)

In the UK, where 21,189 people responded to the survey, youngsters were also more likely to think climate change was a global emergency, with 86% of under-18s saying it was.

The figure was over 80% for both the 18-35 and the 36-59 age groups, and although the over-60s were slightly more sceptical, 78% of them believed climate change was a global emergency – the highest level worldwide for their age group.

Recognition of the global emergency was slightly higher among those who had post-secondary education (85%) than those without (79%), and among women and girls (84%) than men and boys (78%).

Out of 18 environmental policy options people could show their support for, the most popular in the UK were using solar, wind and renewable power, conserving land and forests and keeping the ocean and waterways healthy – each backed by more than four-fifths of people.

The least popular option was promoting plant-based diets, which was supported by 43% of those who took part.

The peoples’ climate vote was conducted from October 7 to December 4 2020 by distributing poll questions through adverts in popular mobile gaming apps to 50 countries.

More than 30 million invites to the survey were issued to people when they played a popular mobile game – such as Words With Friends, Angry Birds, Dragon City or Subway Surfers.

Survey results were included from 1.22 million people who answered at least some questions on climate and all three demographic questions, on gender, age group and education level.

The findings were then weighted by polling experts at Oxford University to be as representative as possible for each country.

UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said: “The results of the survey clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe, across nationalities, age, gender and education level.

“But more than that, the poll reveals how people want their policymakers to tackle the crisis.

“From climate-friendly farming to protecting nature and investing in a green recovery from Covid-19, the survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate.

“It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”

Prof Stephen Fisher, from the Department of Sociology at Oxford, said: “The survey – the biggest ever survey of public opinion on climate change – has shown us that mobile gaming networks can not only reach a lot of people, they can engage different kinds of people in a diverse group of countries.

“The people’s climate vote has delivered a treasure trove of data on public opinion that we’ve never seen before.

“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-raging policy response.”