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Majority of us have made personal changes for the climate, but not as many are confident it's enough

Across the political spectrum, only Fine Gael voters place more responsibility on individuals than on governments to tackle the climate crisis.

THE VAST MAJORITY of people in Ireland have made personal changes in their lives for environmental reasons in recent years – but only half feel that they are doing enough. 

Slightly fewer people again think that enough is being done overall to tackle the climate crisis, a new poll has found.

As part of a detailed climate poll by The Good Information Project/Ireland Thinks, we asked people around Ireland for their personal perspectives – whether they’ve made changes for the environment, who’s most responsible for addressing the climate crisis, and how large a problem they understand it to be.

87% of people said they have recycled more in recent years for environmental reasons. 71% have cut down on single-use plastics and 43% have reduced their purchases of clothes, while one-third of people eat less meat.

Some less common changes are using public transport more (19%), retrofitting their home (18%), cycling more (15%), using renewable energy to power their home (13%) and using electric vehicles more (8%).

Only 5% of people have made none of those changes.

Nearly half (45%) of 25 to 34-year-olds are eating less meat, the highest rate for any age group, and 94% of 55 to 64-year-olds are recycling more.

In Dublin, using public transport and cycling more rises to 27% and 19% respectively.

In comparison, in Connacht and Ulster, it was 13% and 12%.

Uptake of the measures was highest among People Before Profit voters, of whom 53% said they increased their use of public transport and 30% cycle more, and the Green Party at 44% and 32% respectively. 

Eating less meat was also lowest in Connacht and Ulster at 29%, compared, for example, to Dublin’s 38%, but it had the highest rate of home retrofitting (21%) of any region.

Respondents that vote for Aontú had the highest rate of making none of those changes at 16%, followed by 8% of Fine Gael and Labour Party voters, 7% of Independent, 5% Sinn Féin and 1% of People Before Profit.

All Fianna Fáil, Green Party and Social Democrat voters said they have made at least one of those changes.

Is it enough?

Although most people have made changes, only 55% feel they are doing enough in their own life to tackle the climate crisis.

32% don’t feel they are doing enough, 9% said they didn’t know, and 4% believe it isn’t their responsibility.

Older age groups were more confident than younger ones that they were doing enough in their lives, with “yes” responses rising from 31% in the 18 to 24 category to 75% among 65 and overs.

Men were three times more likely than women to believe that it isn’t their responsibility to take action to tackle the crisis at 6% compared to 2%, but overall, that belief was low across most demographics except for 18 to 24-year-olds at 12%.

Who’s responsible for tackling the crisis?

When the poll asked who is the most responsible for ensuring the climate crisis is addressed properly, governments were the clear leader in the responses – 44% of people believe governments hold the most responsibility.

28% of people believe individuals are responsible for making sure the crisis is addressed, 27% pointed to corporations, and 1% didn’t know.

18 to 24 and 25 to 34-year-olds especially think that governments should be leading change, with 58% and 54% of the age groups respectively voting for governments, whereas older age groups gradually placed less emphasis on governments and more on personal responsibility.

Governments are only the most responsible according to 37% of people aged 65 and over, while 40% chose individuals and 22% said corporations.

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People with a third-level degree were more inclined to say governments are most responsible for addressing the crisis (51%), compared to those with a post-Leaving Cert qualification (41%), Leaving Certificate (42%) and who finished education without a Leaving Certificate (32%).

Fine Gael voters were the only respondents on the political spectrum to place more responsibility on individuals than on governments – 34% said governments, 45% said corporations, and 20% said corporations.

On the other end of the scale, 74% of People Before Profit voters said governments are the most responsible for making sure the climate crisis is addressed, 8% said individuals, and 18% said corporations.

But irrespective of who is responsible for fixing it, nearly half of people agree that climate change is a big problem and that we’re not doing enough to tackle it.

The poll asked respondents about their views on the issue of climate change – whether they believe it is a small or large problem (or not a problem at all) and whether enough is being done to address it.

48% said that climate change is a big problem and we’re not doing enough to tackle it, while 11% believe that it is an enormous problem and it’s too late for us.

26% feel it is a significant problem and we’re doing as much as we can.

10% believe it is a small problem and we’re doing more than enough and 3% said it isn’t a problem, with another 2% saying they didn’t know.

Men were more likely than women to say that climate change isn’t a problem – 5% vs 1%.

Ireland Thinks polled a representative sample of 1,200 people on 16 October for their views on climate issues – you can find out about what Ireland thinks of climate policies, agriculture, and whether the government is doing enough on Saturday.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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