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Climate Change

Published on July 15th, 2017 | by James Ayre


European Public Is Nearly As Misinformed About Climate Change As US Public Is, Research Finds

July 15th, 2017 by  

A recent opinion poll of 10,000 European Union citizens on the subject of climate change has revealed a number of interesting things. Particularly, it reveals that public awareness of marine climate change issues in Europe is dismal. Not much better than in the US, apparently, despite the assumptions that many people make.

The new poll, which is published in Frontiers in Marine Science, is according to those behind it the “first in-depth study looking at public engagement with marine climate change issues across 10 European countries.”

As noted by paper co-author Professor Carlos Duarte, the Director of the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia, “a surprising number are poorly informed, and even misinformed revealing a major failure at communicating climate change science to the public.”

Something that’s particularly interesting here is that apparently 26% of the poll respondents think that the Arctic Ocean has already in recent years experienced complete summer sea-ice loss.

So, those who are expecting that an “ice-free” Arctic Ocean during the summer is going to be some kind of wakeup event for humanity might be quite mistaken.

In addition, 30% of poll respondents apparently think that sea temperatures have already increased by more than 2° Celsius as compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

“This is hugely disturbing because if these changes have already occurred in their minds, what incentive do these citizens have to demand action to prevent such changes?” Duarte continued.

Interestingly, the poll showed clearly that awareness and concern increased amongst populations closer to the sea, and also with age, and also that it is higher amongst Southern Europeans than amongst Northern Europeans.

The press release provides more: “54% of European citizens believe that humans play only a partial role or no role in climate change. … The European public perceive ocean pollution as the most severe human impact on the ocean, however they are not well informed on ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions. Melting sea ice, coastal flooding, sea level rise, and extreme weather events were also of concern. Interestingly, nations that have already been coping with problems, such as the Dutch with sea level rise and the Norwegians with sea-ice loss, are the least concerned with the impacts of climate change. Citizens declared very little trust in government institutions and their scientists and have the most trust in scientists employed by universities.”

Duarte commented on the implications of the work: “We are at a time when decisions made will have irreversible consequences and this level of misinformation is a huge vulnerability for society in general and for future generations. The survey calls for a major shift in the way we communicate climate change with far less emphasis on what changes may occur in the future, as these can be misinterpreted by the public, and we need a greater involvement of university scientists.”

While I understand what Duarte is saying there … there’s only so much that something can be dumbed down without completely losing the message — without turning it into nothing but trivia, entertainment, or politics, that is. Once the effects of climate change begin hitting in earnest, within only the next few decades, the problems will transcend normal political theater — shouldn’t people care more?

Despite what some may now be thinking, once mass famines, mass migrations, and rapid sea level rise pulses begin, they will be no more controllable than they have been at any earlier points in time … and yet people seem to be content to sleepwalk into the coming problems, as the poll discussed above shows.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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