Four in five Scots consider climate change a ‘global emergency

82% believe climate change constitutes a global emergency and 58% believe greatest responsibility for action lies with government

A NEW Understanding Scotland poll has found widespread concern at climate change and a clear consensus that it constitutes a global emergency, with 82% of those surveyed saying so, compared to only 12% who disagree.

The findings also challenge preconceptions that environmental concerns are the preserve of the young and the middle classes, with broad concern seen across demographic groups.By a ratio of 3:1, people believe that climate change is an issue that worries everybody regardless of background, with less affluent respondents in fact less likely to say that it primarily motivates more privileged people.

When it comes to tackling climate change, 58% of people believe that government has the greatest responsibility for doing so, followed by individuals (18%) and business (12%). Young people, however, appear to see this as a systemic issue rather than one of individual responsibility: those aged 16-34 were twice as likely as any other age bracket to hold businesses singularly responsible, with one in five saying they had the greatest responsibility. 

The polling also finds that half (49%) of all people believe that tackling climate change need not hamper economic productivity, compared to a quarter who said it was likely to have a detrimental effect. People in the North East of Scotland were more sceptical, with a third (35%) suggesting it would harm the economy, though a greater proportion (41%) disagreed.

Reflecting on the results, Mark Diffley, director of Diffley Partnership who conducted the survey, said: “These findings point to a widespread concern at the scale of the climate emergency, regardless of age or background. There is a clear onus on national governments to act, with a widespread perception that this could provide an economic boost at the same time as tackling this formidable challenge.”

The polling also found a clear role for education to tackle climate change. Two thirds of respondents believe that a designated educational institution would help to tackle climate change, and over half (55%) would like colleges and universities to include climate education in all their offerings. 45% per cent of those expressing an opinion also said that school curricula are not currently doing enough to educate young people on climate change, compared to 24% saying that they are.

Wayne Powell, Principal of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), who sponsored the survey, said: “This initial research shows that there is a clear need for educational institutions to be leading the way in the fight against climate change. SRUC is uniquely placed at the heart of the debate, delivering independent evidence-based research, skills and innovation to help deliver and protect an economy driven by the natural environment.”

The polling, part of the new Understanding Scotland survey from Diffley Partnership and Charlotte Street Partners, gathers insights from over 2,000 members of the Scottish adult population. The full report, exploring environmental attitudes and behaviours in Scotland, can be found here.

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