Public backs action as effects of climate change intensify

Intro

Politicians in Europe, at least, no longer have any excuse to delay climate action given the clear evidence of public support, according to a major European survey launched this week. The European Perceptions of Climate Change found that a majority of people in the four European countries surveyed support using public money to prepare now for the impacts of climate change, to help developing nations cope with extreme weather, and to subsidise renewable energy sources. Indeed, politicians in all countries need to double down on fighting climate change and preparing for its impacts. A new study reveals that the Australian summer of 2016/17 was characterised by intense heatwaves, hot days and bushfires in central and eastern Australia, while heavy rainfall and flooding affected the west of the country. The US has also experienced a strangely warm winter that scientists are likewise linking closely with climate change. Action to boost the global clean energy transition is happening, UK carbon emissions have collapsed to levels barely seen since the Victorian era because of a reduce in coal use and all candidates in the French election agree on the need to decarbonise. But with US President Donald Trump doing all he can to overturn clean energy transition wins, Europe needs to pull together more than ever to lead the world to a cleaner, healthier, more secure future.

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Key Points

  • Research shows that Europeans want political action to tackle climate change. A new study reveals that overwhelming majorities of people in the UK, Germany, France and Norway agree climate change is at least partly caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, that the impacts of climate change such as severe floods and storms are already affecting them, and positively support renewable energy. This shows that the critical public support for climate action is there and that politicians have no excuse to delay any further the shift to a low carbon society.
  • Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and are increasingly being linked to climate change.Australia just experienced its ‘angry summer’, as labelled by climate scientists who have been investigating how extreme the effects of climate change have already become. Sydney, for example, had its hottest summer on record with a mean temperature 2.8C above average, while Moree in regional New South Wales experienced a record 54 consecutive days of temperatures 35°C or above. Meanwhile, the US is fairing little better with a freakishly balmy February breaking more than 11,700 local daily records for warmth, which scientists are again linking to climate change.
  • In the light of Donald Trump’s fossil fuel mania, the EU needs to do much more than talk the talk on climate action. EU foreign affairs ministers kicked off the week by agreeing to put climate objectives at the heart of EU security and foreign policies. This is a good sign that things are moving in the right direction, but European leaders needs to do a lot more than talk about action and actually lead the world with immediate concrete actions to speed up the global clean energy transition.

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KEY QUOTES

  • “It is encouraging to see that most people in this very large study recognise that climate change is happening, and that support for the need to tackle it remains high amongst the people we surveyed.” – Prof Nick Pidgeon at Cardiff University.

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