Spanish citizens are more supportive of climate action after COVID-19, but are more pessimistic about their expectations

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The majority of the Spanish population is pessimistic about future climate action by the government and citizens following the impact of COVID-19. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), which seeks to determine how the crisis with COVID-19 has affected public attitudes to climate change .

Speculation over how COVID-19 will affect climate action has abounded over the past two years. While the most optimistic voices point to a favorable change in individuals’ behavior towards the environment, more critical voices point out that environmental concerns put economic recovery programs in the background.

A team of ICTA-UAB researchers led by economist Jeroen van den Berg analyzes public expectations for future climate action using textual responses from online survey and analyzing them with computational linguistics methods. The results of a study published recently in the journal PLOS ONEshow that people have more negative than positive expectations about how the pandemic will affect both government policies and citizens’ actions on climate change.

Most of the identified public opinion about the government’s actions reflects negative perceptions. In general, they address the reduced focus on climate change, budgetary constraints due to COVID-19 and related economic and health crises, and the increase in waste due to the use of disposable protective measures as masks. and gloves. A small number of people (8.2%) see almost no link between COVID-19 and climate action. Only two topics, covering about 15% of the responses, are more positive: they consider COVID-19 as an environmental wake-up signal or point to positive changes in consumer habits and teleworking.

Regarding people’s expectations of the actions of their fellow citizens, about 31% of respondents have a positive opinion of the situation and believe that COVID-19 has led to higher environmental awareness and more responsible consumption. However, most respondents still express an opinion negative viewswhich suggests, for example, that people already have too many other problems to worry about climate action or will quickly return to old routines after the pandemic is over.

According to researchers, additional findings emerge by measuring positive and negative expectations. “We have found that expectations of future climate action by the government and people tend to correlate. climatic actions tend to be younger, men, better educated, with a stronger perception of climate change as a serious threat and a more positive experience with the retention of COVID-19 “, explains Ivan Savin, researcher at ICTA-UAB and lead author of the study.

These generally pessimistic expectations contrast with the findings of an additional study recently published in the journal Ecological Economics by the same group of researchers. This second study, led by ICTA-UAB researcher Stefan Drews, analyzes how citizens’ engagement with climate change has changed over time. For this purpose, they compared the data from the survey of the same group of respondents from months before and after COVID-19. They found out public support for climate policy tends to be slightly higher after COVID-19. Even respondents who have had negative health or economic experiences due to COVID-19 are no less supportive of climate policy. “This suggests that public expectations for other citizens (shown in the first survey) may be more negative than the current reality, as (as the second survey shows) there have been positive changes in public opinion,” said Stefan Drews.

Scientists speculate that politicians could use this supposed link between COVID-19 and the environmental crisis to introduce more ambitious climate policy measures. Therefore, understanding people’s expectations is important for politicians to offer policy instruments that are not only effective but also supported by the majority of the population.

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More info:
Ivan Savin et al., Public Expectations on the Impact of COVID-19 on Climate Action by Citizens and Government, FLAT FIRST (2022). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0266979

Quote: Spanish citizens are more supportive of climate action after COVID-19, but are more pessimistic about their expectations (2022, June 17), extracted on June 18, 2022 from 2022-06-spanish-citizens-climate -action-covid-.html

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