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Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to a German think tank, most people are unaware of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, and the majority of people even in European countries believe that modern warming is at least partially a natural phenomenon. However, the survey found that even believers are reluctant to accept expensive climate protection measures.

The denial of climate change leads to inaction

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

New research in Europe and the US shows that less than half of the public in the countries studied is aware of the scientific consensus on climate change.

The survey, which was commissioned by dpart, a Berlin think tank, and the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), was published yesterday. The data collection for the survey took place in August. Overall, the survey is based on the responses of 10,233 people aged 18 to 74 in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Great Britain and the USA.

"Many citizens across Europe and the US still do not realize that the scientific consensus on human responsibility for climate change is overwhelming," said Heather Grabbe, director of OSEPI. "While outright denialism is rare, there is a widespread misconception fueled by legitimate interests against emissions reductions that scientists are divided over whether humans are causing climate change."

"Our surveys show that the more convinced people are that climate change is the result of human activity, the more accurately they assess its effects and the more they want action," she added.

Large minorities – from 17 percent in Spain to 44 percent in France – still believe that climate change is caused by humans and natural processes alike. This is important because those who accept that climate change is the result of human activity are twice as likely to believe that it will have negative consequences for their own lives.

In addition to the “tough” skeptics who do not believe that human activities contribute to climate change, these skeptics together make up the majority in France, Poland, the Czech Republic and the United States.

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You can find the survey (in English) here.

The survey also tried to measure support for climate action and found that skepticism about climate action is strongly correlated with climate skepticism.

Cost issues – The survey also found that people are reluctant to support expensive climate protection measures. “… Overall, people in all countries see measures against climate change largely from a more personal perspective. They are more likely to consider changing their personal consumption than to take collective action. On policy terms, they advocate government response but appear unwilling to support strategies that affect them directly in costly ways. … ”

Why do people care about the costs when the future of the planet is in balance?

I suspect that the inconsistencies in the climate narrative are a much bigger barrier to the adoption of costly climate interventions than anything climate skeptics do or say.

Renewable energy proponents, for example, often claim that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, but for some reason politicians still have to spend trillions of dollars in green new deals or other costly measures to fuel the low-carbon revolution.

Renewable energy advocates have never given a satisfactory explanation of why the most profitable and inexpensive energy option needs so much government support.

Earlier, cost-driven energy transition, such as the switch from whale oil to cheaper kerosene, did not require any government intervention. From 1858 to 1860, the number of U.S. whaling ships collapsed from 199 ships in 1858 to 167 ships in 1860. By 1876 only 39 whaling ships were still in service. A sudden breakdown like this is the pattern one would expect from a real cost-driven energy transition.

People are not stupid. Not having a satisfactory answer to obvious questions is the easiest way to kill enthusiasm for a planned investment, even when there are many people on board with the idea that the investment is necessary.

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