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Young people have little faith in the government on climate, poll finds

Polling by Ireland Thinks has delved into the country’s views on climate policies, actions, and where responsibility for creating change lies.

CONFIDENCE THAT THE Irish government is doing enough to tackle the climate crisis is low, especially among younger age groups.

Throughout the first two weeks of November, representatives from Ireland and across the world will meet in Glasgow for COP26, a major UN climate summit.

Experts are loudly warning that the need to combat rising greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of the environment is increasingly urgent ahead of the negotiations, where countries will try to work out new climate agreements.

But at home, only one-third of people in Ireland think the government is doing enough.

Polling by The Good Information Project/Ireland Thinks has delved into the country’s views on climate policies, actions, and responsibility from whether Ireland should build a nuclear power station to changes individuals have made in their lives for environmental reasons.

We’ll be bringing you the results of the poll across this weekend.

Crucially, the poll asked respondents: “Do you think the Irish government is doing enough on the climate crisis?”

On average, 33% of people said yes, 56% said no, and 11% didn’t know.

Viewpoints varied widely across age groups, with only 11% of 18 to 24-year-olds thinking the government is doing enough and 88% saying it isn’t.

They were followed by 35 to 44-year-olds, of whom 23% said yes and 67% said no.

65 and overs were the only age group where more people said that the government is doing enough on climate than those who said it isn’t – 58% compared to 31%.

That age group was also the most confident that they were doing enough in their own lives, with 75% believing they were, compared to 31% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

55 to 64-year-olds were the group with the highest level of uncertainty – 17% said they didn’t know, 34% said yes, and 49% said no. Among Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters, whose parties are in power, around half of respondents think the government is doing enough – 51% and 55% respectively, while 40% and 30% said no. 

Green Party voters are overwhelmingly unsatisfied – 95% said the government, which their party is also in, is not doing enough on climate.

4% didn’t know if it is and only 1% said yes.

In opposition, 23% of Sinn Féin voters said yes; 22% of Labour Party; 12% of People Before Profit; and 5% of Social Democrats.

The climate question

Monumental changes need to be made to combat the climate crisis, but it’s not too late to make them – that was the lesson from a major climate report published this summer.

What will be done to get there is now the key question.

Ireland Thinks polled a representative sample of 1,200 people on 16 October for their views on a range of climate issues.

On an individual level, we learned that most people in Ireland have made changes in their lives for environmental reasons in recent years like recyling more, cutting down on single-use plastics and buying clothes, eating less meat, and using public transport.

27% said they have been negatively impacted by a severe weather event like a flooding, storm or a heatwave in Ireland in the past 10 years.

Nearly half feel that climate change is a big problem and that we aren’t doing enough to tackle it, while only a small minority think it isn’t a problem at all.

Many think that individuals are the most responsible for making sure the climate crisis is being addresses properly, but even more people think the responsibility lies with governments.

Looking at government policies, the public is split on whether Ireland should build a nuclear power station to increase clean energy supplies and on whether the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles should end by 2035.

In agriculture, 58% would support one-off payments to older farmers for them to retire and allow more sustainable agriculture practices to take hold (a policy introduced in England this year), but support for reducing the number of cows in Ireland was less popular.

Kevin Cunningham, the founder of Ireland Thinks and a lecturer at TU Dublin, told The Journal that although many people oppose measures like a carbon tax, the public is “quite clear that something must be done”.

“On a trade-off between the economy and climate change, what’s most clear is that people very much lean towards addressing climate change,” Cunningham said.

“There’s a feeling of a disjoint, but there’s other things that are quite interesting. While the majority oppose carbon tax, there’s still small majorities in favour of outright banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars and also a majority in favour of at least restricting the national herd,” he said.

In that context, I think the notion that taxation is the only frame to understand how people feel about how climate might be addressed is a very limited way.

“I think a lot of the public discourse up to this point has narrowly focused on the introduction of carbon tax where in fact there seems to be support for other mechanisms,” Cunningham said.

“It’s quite a complex picture between people who want to use all the tools available, people who don’t feel we should be doing anything or want to oppose things, and then those who are maybe more in favour of banning things and stopping things happening, like stopping corporations, rather than placing the responsibility on the public.”

You can find more detailed breakdowns of Ireland’s views on climate policies, climate action, and agriculture today on The Journal.

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.

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