Society Insights

Is climate change still a hot topic?

The trend

The latest synthesis report from the IPCC on the climate crisis estimates that current greenhouse gas emissions have caused the Earth’s temperature to rise by 1.1°C over pre-industrial levels. If we continue on this course, in the next few decades we risk breaking through the 1.5°C threshold, triggering increasingly catastrophic, irreversible consequences for the global climate system.  

The year 2022 was one of the hottest ever recorded on Earth - ranking fifth to be exact, according to a NASA study. Every corner of the planet was impacted by the resulting devastation from floods, draughts and wildfires, events which are accelerating humanitarian crises and aggravating conflicts. All this means climate change isn’t just an environmental problem, but an economic one as well. To mitigate the damage caused by these natural calamities, citizens, companies and institutions will have to pay the tremendous price, a particularly heavy burden for developing countries.    

The findings from a 2022 Ipsos survey exploring the global approach to climate change reflected the impact of natural disasters: half the world’s population worried constantly about global warming. But according to a more recent study done in 2023 on 21,231 adults in 29 countries, new conflicts and all the associated problems are emerging, such as inflation and energy and food security.  A possible consequence of all this is that attention is shifting away from the climate crisis, which is now seen as less urgent.  

Key takeaways

The new survey asks respondents about the need to act on climate change to avoid failing customers and employees, future generations, and people in general, and finds less conviction on this point.  Further data corroborates this attitude, showing increasingly polarized opinions about the right time to invest in climate initiatives: 38% think that time is now, while 30% disagree because of the difficult economic conditions. What’s more, despite the fact that the majority of citizens think that the economic cost of climate change will exceed the cost of mitigation measures, one-fourth of the population take the opposing view (26%). We see a similar breakdown among people who are convinced that climate change is out of their control (24%) and those who believe they can do something about it (48%).  

Opinions are more balanced on the responsibility for climate action, which is seen as shared by citizens (63% of the global population), governments (61%), and companies (59%). The data also underscore the widespread belief that the only way climate questions can be tackled head on is with all countries working together. What’s more, today’s more economically developed countries (70%), and the countries that have historically been the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (62%) must do more in the fight for the climate.  

Worth noting is also the sense of urgency, that still seems prevalent among most survey participants: 52% disagree with the statement that the negative impact of climate change is too far in the future to worry about. But only 14% say they are already doing everything they can to combat global warming. Instead the breakdown of the remainder of the population is as follows: 38% would be more motivated to act with tax breaks as incentives, and 36% with easy-access information on what they can do on a daily basis, or following firsthand experience of climate disasters in their home countries.  

Another revealing datapoint is a growing awareness of the environmental impact of certain actions compared to others. Specifically, the transition to renewables is ranked by respondents as the most effective way to cut emissions, up eight percentage points over 2022. Other measures to safeguard the environment (such as recycling and using biodegradable packaging) are still considered more effective than giving up cars, which is actually the best thing people can do to combat climate change.