23 % of survey respondents wouldn’t take any action for climate change

Credit: author

The results of a recent survey of British people, on how willing they’d be to change their behaviours on behalf of the planet, made for depressing reading. Not least because the purpose of this blog is to encourage people to rethink those behaviours, to give up their conveniences for the sake of our future.

(I’ll save conversation on whether this means I now have an impossible task ahead of me for another time)

Sky’s reporting of the survey can be found here, but some of the more interesting statistics were:

  • More people trust Boris Johnson’s government to make the “right decisions” to tackle climate change (26 %) than would trust a government under the leadership of Kier Starmer (24 %), though more still trust neither party (31 %).
  • 84 % of people weren’t clear what COP 26 is, and 97 % didn’t know which cabinet minister has responsibility for climate change.
  • Voters from the three main parties all thought business and industry was most responsible for causing climate change (42 % on average), though only 27 % thought they had the biggest role to play in stopping. The proportion of people who thought that it was the fault of less developed nations was alarming (7 %)
  • 23 % of people, given a choice of one from four actions to help reduce Britain’s carbon emissions, wouldn’t do any of them.

It’s this last statistic that I want to focus on.

In a way, these findings are not surprising. I see a growing number of people online, resisting the idea that individuals should be responsible for any kind of climate action. Some of this resistance is climate crisis denial, a way of excusing not making lifestyle changes, but most of it stems from a legitimate belief that the responsibility and the need to act should stay with government and big business.

…the reality is that we individuals will have to make sacrifices to cover the shortfall in action.

We shouldn’t need individuals to save the planet for us. The emphasis should be on legislative and corporate players to make changes now that are necessary to avoid a climate crisis.

But, in the absence of these players actually doing something, the reality is that we individuals will have to make sacrifices to cover the shortfall in action.

We cannot wait for governments to act. We cannot wait for business to act. We need to demonstrate our desire for change, by changing our behaviours. We demonstrate our desire to move away from a fossil fuel-based economy, by using fewer fossil fuels. We demonstrate our desire for biodiverse environments, by not supporting the companies that pillage our natural world. And so on.

These sacrifices, these individual changes, can only lead us to a greater individual concern for the planet, to a life more connected to the ecosystem, to more activism, and to greater willingness to hold our elected officials to account.

We can look at these steps as sacrifices, or we can view them as opportunities. An opportunity to be more in touch with nature. An opportunity to live more intentionally. An opportunity to live more locally. An opportunity to save money.

As Friends of the Earth say in the article:

“The emphasis needs to be on the benefits”

Finally, this:

“The findings suggest that, while there is a growing awareness of some climate issues, climate change is viewed as a problem for other countries.”

This perspective urgently needs to change. It is everyone’s problem, but “other countries” will suffer the most.