Take heart – around the world, people want to see action on climate change 

  • 27 Feb 2024
  • Blog

Why doesn’t anyone care about climate change as much as I do?

It’s so easy to think this (and for this feeling to be backed up by the prevailing narrative in the media), and then to despair. But actually, take heart – because it’s wrong.   

An article published earlier this month in the journal Nature, in which researchers interviewed nearly 130,000 people across 125 countries, well and truly busted this myth. It showed that when it comes to climate change: 89% of people demand intensified political action, 86% endorse pro-climate social norms and, perhaps the most amazing statistic of all, 69% of the global population expresses a willingness to contribute 1% of their personal income for climate action.  

If you were to just read the headlines of the tabloids or listen to certain culture warriors in the UK government, you’d be forgiven for thinking the exact opposite is true. And being made to feel that you’re on your own in wanting action on climate change is of course very demotivating. The authors of the article in Nature found that, in every country they looked at, people strongly underestimate their fellow citizens’ actual willingness to co-operate for the common good: “The widespread willingness to act against climate change stands in contrast to the prevailing global pessimism regarding others’ willingness to act.” They also noted that studies in behavioural science show that the opposite is also true: individuals are more likely to contribute to the common good when they believe others also contribute.  

So, it really is worth pushing back on the negative narrative that so often prevails in the media, on social media, from right wing think tanks and even the government itself. Because the facts don’t bear out the negative picture that is so often painted. The vast majority of your fellow citizens want action on climate change. 

The research in Nature is backed up, in different ways, by other research in the last year or so that also shows that, for example, the question of whether governments need to act on climate change is widely accepted and the public overwhelmingly backs the UK government’s target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In a poll last August, 70% of respondents said that they support the UK’s target of becoming net zero by 2050, compared to 18% of respondents that oppose the target. This support is particularly strong among Conservative voters with 73% supportive. 

And around the same time, a nationally representative survey of 20,205 UK adults showed that, of those who had an opinion, 70% said that climate and environment policies are important to them and will influence how they vote in the next election. 

So, reminding ourselves that so many of our fellow citizens here and around the world all want the same thing is really important.  Equally crucial is reminding our MPs and MSPs of this same fact – since we urgently need them to understand how strong the public expectation of action on their part is. The more they hear from us on this the better. The Scottish government should understand that we expect them to meet their targets for reducing emissions, and that their Climate Change Plan, due out soon, needs to be packed with the policies to make that happen. We also need them to hear how important an exit plan from fossil fuels is – and that they should back the growing global call for an international treaty to make that happen too.  And of course with a general election on the horizon, it couldn’t be more important to let candidates know just how strong the demand for action on climate change is and how much our votes could depend on their commitment to that. 

Liz Murray is head of Scottish campaigns at Global Justice Now and a Stop Climate Chaos Scotland board member. Read more about Global Justice Now’s climate campaign and the call for a global treaty to end fossil fuels here: https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/our-campaigns/climate/