Three studies and none the wiser - 19 april 2017

I thought the problem was that we say one thing but do another.

But do we even know the facts?

Last month, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Ipsos released a survey stating that 60% of Swedes connect flying with environmental problems, yet only 28% thought they would change their flying behaviour. 57% believed they would continue flying like they do now.

Also last month, Jordbruksverket (The Swedish Board of Agriculture) reported that, meat consumption was rising and breaking records. This came as a surprise, as in November, 2016, it seemed that meat consumption was leveling off in Sweden, confirming a growing trend of people saying they want to eat less meat. I wrote a short blog about “peak meat” at that time which you can read here.

In a way, both findings are not that surprising. It’s a known fact that humans say one thing yet do something that opposes that saying. Like it’s a known fact that human actions are the main contributor to climate change.

Apparently though, neither that seems to be true.

When asked how much of the warming over the past century was caused by human actions as opposed to natural processes, 43% of people in the UK, 49% in Germany and 34% in Norway held this view. In France, 55% thought so.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 14.24.06Source: European Perceptions of Climate Change (EPCC), 2017.

The correct answer is 100%. Climate change we experience today is 100% due to human action. Some even argue that the correct answer should be more than 100%. (Because without us, the planet most likely would have cooled very slightly due to volcanic emissions and orbital changes, among others.)

Citizens in the four European countries were also widely misinformed when it came to the scientists’ view on this. Only a third of all people think there is an 80% scientific agreement with the above statement. (The truth is that 97% of climate scientists agree on this)

In both the meat and the flying case people have connected environmental issues to human behaviour, even though their actions don’t reflect this conscience. When it comes to climate change science the EPPC study shows lacking overall knowledge in European countries.

My questions abound: How can we bridge the attitude-behaviour gap? The argument often goes that facts will get the message across but when it comes to consuming meat and flying that doesn’t seem to do it. Does it matter that we don’t know the science? Where should we focus our efforts when it comes to stopping climate change?

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