Our planet is now more than ever fickle. Long established climatic patterns are almost completely gone, and millions of people are living on the edge.
And now in the largest global survey on climate change ever conducted, 64 percent of people believe that climate change is an emergency and must be addressed urgently.
“There is a groundswell of people that are saying even during a pandemic that climate change is an emergency and here’s how we want to solve it,” Cassie Flynn, UNDP’s strategic adviser on climate change and head of its Climate Promise initiative, said.
The survey dubbed the people’s climate vote, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Oxford, involved over 1.2 million people spread across fifty countries where 56% of the global population live.
Time is running out
So, what is this survey telling us?
Certainly, the overarching message is that the planet is running out of time to contain the impacts of climate change.
From the responses, it is evident that climate change is no longer some marginal variations only determinable by sophisticated science but an experience of daily living of people all over the world. They can see it and feel it.
University of Oxford’s Prof. Stephen Fisher said the survey has delivered a treasure trove of data on public opinion never seen before.
“Recognition of the climate emergency is much more widespread than previously thought and most people clearly want a strong and wide-raging policy response,” he added.
Cassie Flynn said the response is overwhelming in its signal that people are looking around them. “They are living the climate crisis and they want solutions,” she said.
Young people more concerned
The People’s Climate Vote survey questions were distributed across mobile gaming networks so as to include hard-to-reach audiences, including 550,000 people under the age of 18.
From the findings young people (under 18) are more likely to believe climate change is a global emergency than other age groups, but a substantial majority of older people still agreed with them.
“Nearly 70% of under-18s said that climate change is a global emergency, compared to 65% of those aged 18-35, 66% aged 36-59 and 58% of those aged over 60,” the report says.
Of categories of countries surveyed, the highest level of support for urgent climate action came from small island developing states at 74 percent, followed by high-income countries (72 percent), middle-income countries (62 percent), and least developed countries (58 percent).
From a list of 18 possible policies that governments can implement to address climate change, respondents were asked to rank by importance, those they thought would be effective.
Conserving forests and land came in at the top with 54 percent, followed by the need for more solar, wind and renewable power (53 percent), adopting climate-friendly farming techniques (52 percent) and investing more in green businesses and jobs (50 percent).
While these reflect the different priority issues for different people depending on their experience of climate change and the different drivers of this crisis, it also points to the absence of a single solution that can fix the problem.
“People are saying that this crisis, isn’t just going to have one silver bullet. It demands many different ways that we can solve this,” said Cassie Flynn.
The aim of the Peoples’ Climate Vote is to connect the public to policymakers – and to provide governments with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond.
This comes at a time when countries are preparing their national climate pledges, also known as Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs, a part of nations’ commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement; in readiness for COP-26 in the UK in November.
“World leaders are really faced with some unprecedented decisions that they have to make. How they respond to the climate crisis and the COVID crisis is really going to chart an entirely new pathway,” Said Cassie Flynn.
She added that the survey will bring the people’s voices to the climate debate in Glasgow, with nationally specific ways in which the crisis can be addressed.