Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to a German think tank, most people are not aware of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, with a majority of people even in European countries believing that the modern warming is at least partially a natural phenomenon. But the survey notes even believers are reluctant to embrace expensive climate interventions.
Denial of climate change leads to inaction
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
New research in Europe and the United States shows that less than half of the public across the countries surveyed are aware of the scientific consensus on climate change.
The survey, commissioned by dpart, a Berlin-based think tank, and the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), was published yesterday. The data collection for the survey took place in August. In total, the survey is based on the responses of 10,233 people, ages 18 to 74, in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, the UK and the US.
“Many citizens across Europe and US still don’t realise that scientific consensus on human responsibility for climate change is overwhelming,” said Heather Grabbe, director of OSEPI. “Though outright denialism is rare, there is a widespread false belief, promoted by vested interests opposed to emissions reductions, that scientists are split on whether humans are causing climate change.”
“Our polling shows that the more convinced people are that climate change is the result of human activity, the more accurately they estimate its impact and the more they want action,” she added.
Large minorities – ranging from 17 per cent in Spain to 44 per cent in France -– still believe that climate change is caused equally by humans and natural processes. This matters because those who do accept that climate change is the result of human action are twice as likely to believe it will cause negative consequences in their own lives.
When added to the “hard” sceptics, who do not believe human activity is a contributing factor to climate change, these sceptics together make up the majority in France, Poland, the Czech Republic and the USA.
Read more: https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/142255/denial-of-climate-change-leads-to-inaction/
The survey (in English) is available here.
The survey also attempted to gauge support for climate action, and noticed that climate action skepticism was strongly correlated with climate skepticism.
Cost matters – the survey also noticed people are reluctant to support expensive climate interventions. “… Overall, people in all countries see action on climate change largely through a rather personal lens. They are more likely to consider changing their personal consumption than engage in collective action. In terms of policy, they are in favour of a government response, but seem reluctant to support policies that directly affect them in a costly way. …”
Why do people care about the cost, if the future of the planet hangs in the balance?
I suspect the inconsistencies in the climate narrative are a much bigger obstacle to acceptance of costly climate interventions than anything climate skeptics do or say.
For example, renewable energy advocates frequently claim renewables are cheaper than fossil fuel, but for some reason politicians still need to provide trillions of dollars in the form of green new deals or other costly interventions to drive the low carbon revolution.
Renewable advocates have never provided a satisfactory explanation for why the most profitable, lowest cost energy option needs so much government assistance.
Previous cost driven energy revolutions, like the switch from whale oil to lower cost kerosene, did not require any government intervention whatsoever. From 1858 to 1860 the number of US whaling ships collapsed from 199 ships in 1858 to 167 ships in 1860. Only 39 whaling ships were still in operation by 1876. An abrupt collapse like this is the kind of pattern you would expect to see from a genuine cost driven energy revolution.
People are not stupid. Having no satisfactory answer for obvious questions is the easiest way to kill enthusiasm for a proposed investment, even if a lot of people are onboard with the idea that the investment is necessary.