Roughly 78% of people worldwide are concerned about human-caused damage to our planet with the climate and biodiversity crisis, according to the most comprehensive global values survey to date tracking attitudes about climate change and the environment.
The survey, conducted by international marketing research agency Glocalities in collaboration with Global Citizen, asked more than 180,000 people in 20 countries over six years about their views on the environment and climate change. They found that people across age groups, genders, and educational and socio-cultural backgrounds are ready to take action to protect the environment. In the lead-up to November’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, this sort of global consensus could give world leaders the push they need to implement meaningful climate action.
“The world population has woken up to the urgency of the ecological crisis,” Martijn Lampert, research director and co-founder of Glocalities, said in a press release. “Anxieties about human-made damage to planet Earth increasingly unite people from all walks of life.
“The time has come for courageous, fact-based, and visionary leadership to build a grand coalition for safeguarding the vitality of our planet and future generations,” he added. “People in all countries are way ahead of many political leaders in recognizing the urgency of the task at hand."
From devastating wildfires and prolonged droughts to extreme storms and dwindling water supplies, communities have been coping with the escalating effects of the climate and biodiversity crisis for years now. These growing environmental threats have affected the livelihoods and health and well-being of millions of people and worsened global inequality.
In fact, the top five environmental concerns reported by respondents were climate change, air pollution, water pollution, depletion of natural resources, and extinction of animal and plant species. Young people, in particular, showed a surging interest in climate-related matters over the past several years.
Yet, the gap between awareness of this crisis and the action needed to address it remains enormous. The world is currently on track to warm at least 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the decades ahead, far higher than the 1.5 degrees of warming established as the limit by the Paris climate agreement. Warming of nearly 3 degrees would destabilize the global climate system, usher in broad ecological disruptions, and make the planet far less habitable for people in most countries.
Under the Paris climate agreement, governments are expected to update their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions every five years. Currently, only a handful of countries have updated their plans to adequately align with the Paris climate agreement ahead of COP26. Some countries — such as China and India — have failed to revise their plans altogether, while others such as Russia and Brazil have weakened their plans ahead of the conference.
Confronting the climate crisis and achieving the Paris climate agreement requires a unified front with all countries working together.
G20 countries, in particular, have an opportunity to play a leading role in mitigating the crisis both by pursuing stronger emissions reductions themselves and supporting transitions to renewable energy in developing countries. The upcoming G20 Summit on Oct. 30 and 31 can be used as a springboard for climate action heading into COP26. In particular, member countries can commit to achieve the $100 billion per year in climate financing that wealthy nations pledged in 2009 to raise for developing countries.
The new survey released by Glocalities shows that the people living within many of these countries are eager to work together. When asked to select four actions that they’d be willing to take, the top four choices were: sign a petition, vote in support of the issue, donate money to an organization working on the issue, and volunteer at campaigns and events.
This suggests that the grassroots movement to protect the environment is gaining momentum. That’s most visible in the youth-led protest movement. Young people are taking to the streets, staging sit-ins in halls of power, and calling out corporate and political leaders.
“There’s a lot of visibility on the one hand, and on the other hand, science is proving more and more what causes the changes and the rise in temperature,” Lampert said. “The youngest generation is the most educated in history. You cannot fool them with fake news. They are knowledge-oriented. This generation is massive and also the future of humanity.”
The Glocalities survey shows that people from different demographics want to support the transition to a world where protecting the environment is the status quo. As more people elevate the issue among friends and family, vote for elected officials with pro-climate stances, and use their wallets to support sustainability, governments may finally follow suit.
“I’ve been researching values for two decades, and if you really look deeply into the values of people, you see the potential for more unity and more coordinated efforts for a better future,” said Lampert. “It's an increasingly unifying belief, to take care of our collective habitat. We live in an interconnected home and system, and we have to recognize the possibility for a planet and a humanity that flourishes.”