JPI Climate: European Perceptions of Climate Change

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology

Abstract

Public engagement with climate change, and support for policies to tackle it, is critical in creating a climate-proof Europe. While attitudes to climate change have been well documented in individual European countries, their designs have never been coordinated. Also, each nation has its own unique sociopolitical context and energy infrastructure that need to be taken into account to make meaningful comparisons. There is an urgent need to connect the within-country knowledge that does exist, conduct rigorous cross-national research, and synthesise public perceptions at a European level.

In a two year project involving an inter-disciplinary team from the UK, Germany, Norway and France, we will address this need through: directly comparable and nationally representative surveys of public opinion (approximately 1,000 interviews in each country); an in-depth analyses of the sociopolitical context in each participating nation; and an innovative international stakeholder panel for co-constructing the sociopolitical analyses and disseminating findings.

Whilst there have been some ad-hoc surveys of European public opinion, no theoretically well-justified cross-national analysis of climate change and energy perceptions has ever been conducted. The project will ground the survey findings in sociopolitical factors relevant to public perceptions, allowing robust international comparisons, and producing a detailed and rich source of knowledge for policy-makers. Outputs will include cross-national data on climate change and energy preferences and a series of recommendations for enhancing public engagement with climate change.

We will take an innovative approach to stakeholder engagement. An international panel will co-construct the socio-political analysis that informs the survey design, and will then play a central role in a coordinated programme of dissemination and outreach. This will ensure that the project has the maximum possible impact and contributes essential knowledge in the transition towards a climate-proof Europe.

Planned Impact

An integral part of the proposed research is an international stakeholder panel that will ensure that the projects builds links and contacts with international stakeholder networks from the very beginning. In addition, co-production of knowledge is key, as the stakeholder panel will co-produce both the within-country socio-political analyses and the survey design. We describe the four key routes by which non-academic beneficiaries will be engaged in and benefit from the proposed research in the Pathways To Impact attachment. Here we address the questions of who will benefit from the research and how

Who will benefit from the research?

Throughout the project we will seek to directly engage key policy and civil society stakeholders who are in a position to influence and guide public opinion towards support for a climate proof Europe. In particular, the within-country socio-political analyses and the design of the survey will be subject to critique and input from an international stakeholder panel, which will also be involved in the dissemination of the research. The stakeholder panel will be comprised of 8-10 high-calibre policy actors, civil society voices and other key relevant voices, drawn from across Europe. We have already obtained letters of support from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Green Alliance, and European Climate Foundation. Because key international stakeholders will be engaged from the outset, and involved in the co-creation of significant aspects of the project, we will have primed impactful routes of dissemination.

We will also seek to engage the wider public through interactive social media (e.g. Twitter, discussion blogs) will be used to make the findings available to the wider public, where it is free to be read, discussed, and used. We will hold a series of 'webinars', which stakeholders and members of the public who are not able to attend the Brussels launch event (or national launch events) can participate in for free and without carbon-impact.

How will they benefit?

The international stakeholders who are directly engaged (and importantly, their wider networks) will benefit from priority access to the first systematic, theoretically grounded cross-national comparison of public perceptions of climate change. Ambitious targets for a climate-proof Europe require sustained and widespread public support in order to achieve them, as they can only be met with fundamental shifts in energy production and significant reductions in energy demand. Societal transformation in response to climate change thus rests crucially on the support of the electorate, and knowledge about this support will be invaluable for the stakeholders who seek to facilitate this transformation.

The stakeholders will also benefit by being directly involved in the co-production of the design of the research, permitting a range of their interests and concerns to be represented.
 
Description European Perceptions of Climate Change (EPCC) was a highly successful international collaborative research project yielding extensive comparative data from 4,048 individuals on their attitudes towards climate change, climate policy and related issues, and energy options collected in 2016 in France, Germany, Norway and the UK. Within Europe EPCC represents a unique contemporary social sciences survey on this topic. Cardiff University School of Psychology led the project, collaborating with partners in key research institutions in Paris, Bergen and Stuttgart. Climate Outreach in Oxford worked with us as our impact partner. The project yielded a report on the socio-political profile in each of the four collaborating countries to aid in survey design and data interpretation, the calibrated questionnaire survey translated into four languages, associated survey data with samples of 1000 drawn from each country, a key findings report, and a policy report with recommendations for public engagement. We wish to highlight four key achievements of the project.

(1) The Survey Instrument Development in English, French, German and Norwegian. The survey design took some 12 months to complete, also with extensive stakeholder input (co-construction). Eventually the survey contained 35 items spanning attitudes to climate change, policy responses, energy beliefs, socio-demographics and items on value orientations. The translation phase was critical to ensure a high quality instrument, being developed in English and subsequently double translated into German, Norwegian and French by two teams of native speakers. The project team then compared the two translations to identify inconsistencies, and checked finally against the original English version. The instrument and comparable items in English, German, French and Norwegian is now a major resource for use by researchers who wish to collect comparative data in any of these four languages at any time in the future.

(2) European's Beliefs about Climate Change are Informed but not Alarmed. The EPCC survey showed that scepticism about the reality of climate change is not very widespread in the surveyed countries comprising at most 16% across the four samples, and that a clear majority think that climate change is at least partly caused by human activity. While we had anticipated higher levels of scepticism in the UK than in either France, Germany or Norway, the survey results show somewhat higher levels of scepticism in the UK, but also in Germany, as compared to both Norway and France. Despite climate change being perceived in the past as a distant threat, the current EPCC findings indicate that it is now viewed by many as an immediate threat to themselves and to people similar to themselves. However, this widespread temporal and social closeness to climate change appears to exist in parallel with a prevalent view that climate change will mostly affect other countries. Consistent with earlier studies, our results also indicate that while most people in all four countries are to some extent worried about climate change, very few express high levels of worry. This moderate level of concern about climate change, together with the widespread view that climate change is a relatively close threat that is nonetheless likely to be worse for distant others, paints a picture of informed but not alarmed European publics. However, we also find that, consistent with research from the USA and Australia, many in our samples do not recognise the very high degree of consensus that currently exists within the scientific community regarding the reality of climate change; a finding with considerable significance for UK and European climate scientists and policy makers. The EPCC survey also included two questions probing respondents' views on climate change and migration for the very first time. While in all four countries a majority disputed any link between climate change and the 2016 refugee crisis in Europe, about one third of respondents (and one half in Norway) did think that climate change will lead to more migration to their own country in the future.

(3) There is Strong Support for many Policies to Address Climate Change. These included support for subsidies for renewable energy sources or home insulation, and spending money on national adaptation strategies. Green taxes or levies to pay for policies were by contrast less popular. High levels of support were found for the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and for sanctions for countries that refuse to be part of this international climate change agreement. Across Norway, Germany, France and the UK our data shows that renewable energy sources, such as solar power, hydropower, biomass and onshore and offshore wind power, are viewed very positively in all four countries, while oil and in particular coal were perceived least positively. Opinions about nuclear power were more differentiated across the four countries, with as expected more positive opinions in the UK as compared to Germany, Norway and even France. Our question about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) revealed a consistent pattern across all countries: a relatively high number of respondents were unable to express an opinion on the issue, and, of those who did, fewer than 20% were positive about this approach to energy generation.

(4) The Study has yielded Recommendations for Public Engagement. These include the following. (i) That climate change is getting closer to home for many Europeans so connect with people's experiences and expectations around impacts such as extreme weather. (ii) Since adaptation policies appear uncontroversial, policy should build on this to talk about different types of climate measures (not just mitigation). (iii) That support for renewable energy is consistently high, and hence policy needs to emphasise the social consensus on climate change to build a sense of momentum.
Exploitation Route The EPCC survey provides baseline and comparative data that should help researchers and a range of national and international stakeholders and policymakers to understand the structure of current attitudes to climate change in the countries surveyed. Through this process we would expect a closer dialogue on climate change issues to be facilitated between European citizens and climate scientists, businesses, governments, and representatives of the non-governmental sector. We would expect the survey itself to be followed up by future repeat (tracking) and novel (theoretical) studies of climate and climate policy beliefs in the countries concerned possibly using one or more of the items that we have developed, and for which the translated questionnaire instrument provides a ready-made tool. As well as the planned academic publications of the EPCC research team, the findings of the study are likely to be incorporated in future secondary analyses of climate beliefs conducted by other international research teams. The study will also form the platform for future research efforts on this topic by the collaborating international research teams.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://orca.cf.ac.uk/98660/
 
Description Briefing for Welsh Senedd Climate Change andd Evironment Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Gave expert evidence to, and joined Expert Reference group for, Wales Senedd Environment and Climate Change Committee to further their work in scrutinising Welsh Government climate change policy.
 
Description Evidence given to BEIS roundtable with Nick Hurd (Minister)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Pidgeon attended a roundtable review meeting for Nick Hurd (BEIS Minister responsible for UK climate policy) in February 2017 to brief him on ourt RCUK work on climate change public engagement and energy system change.
 
Description Innovate UK Working group on Public Engagement with Energy System Change
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Pidgeon and Demski are members of a group m,eeting 2016-2017 convened by Innovate UK (C3T) and involving BEIS, Defra and Scottish Government to explore proposals for engaging the public with the energy system transition.
 
Description Member of DEFRA Social Sciences sub-group for its Science Advisory Council
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Since 2016 Pidgeon is member of the DEFRA Social Sciences sub-group for DEFRA Science Advisory Council. Various advice given on sustainability, climate change and energy policy.
 
Title EPCC full climate attitudes data set (UK, Germany, France, Norway) 
Description SN 8325 - Public Perceptions of Climate Change across Four European Countries: United Kingdom, France, Germany and Norway, 2016. This data set (n=1000 in each country) is now lodged in the UK data archive service on an open access basis to registered users. Managed by: collections@ukdataservice.ac.uk 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Open access of data for use by international researchers and policy makers, NGOs and business. 
URL https://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue/?sn=8325&type=Data%20catalogue
 
Description EPCC Results Launch, Bergen Norway 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Streamed video talk, debate, local presentation of nationally relevant (Norwegian) results of cross-Europe survey
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation in two survey results launch events, IEA Paris and an open policy meeting at SYMLOG Paris, 29 March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact EPCC Survey results launch, Paris at two meetings held on the same day. 1) at the International Energy Agency, and 2) at an open meeting for French policy makers organised by SYMLOG Paris
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Press conference at Science Media Centre of topline report of European Perceptions of Climate Change Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press briefing at Science Media Centre to announce major launch event and workshop of findings and topline report of European Perceptions of Climate Change Project. Press coverage of findings on 8 March 2017 obtained in Daily Mail, Guardian, Bloomberg, BT news, CNN, New Scientist, Reuters, and BBC Wales (radio interview) as well as simultaneously in media outlets in Germany, Norway and France.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Results Launch Meeting: European Perceptions of Climate Change Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Major launch event and workshop of findings and topline report of European Perceptions of Climate Change Project. Over 80 participants drawn from government (BEIS, DEFRA, UK Climate Change Committee etc), the NGO sector (Greenpeace, Green Alliance, Carbon Brief, European Climate Foundation, Energy for Humanity) and business (Aldersgate Group, Internatonal Energy Agency, Centrica, Energy UK). Held at the Royal Society in London and webcast live to parallel meetings in Potsdam and in Bergen, as well as elswhere in Europe and around the globe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Survey launch at Institute for Advances Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany, 8 March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Surevy results launch and debale for German media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talks on the EPCC results to policymakers at UK Business Innovation and Industrial Strategy ministery, and at the UK Behavioural Insights Unit. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We gave invited talks on the EPCC results to policymakers at the UK Business Innovation and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministry, and at the UK Behavioural Insights Unit, both based in London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017