A new climate change study in Ireland shows overwhelming agreement among Irish people on the threat of climate change and the desire for government action.
In December 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ireland published their ‘Climate Change in the Irish Mind’ report with Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communications. The EPA conducted the nationally representative survey of 4,000 Irish people, the first of its kind in Ireland, in the summer of 2021.
The report shows 96% of Irish people believe climate change is happening. 85% are worried about the issue and 91% of people say it is personally important to them. Dr Anthony Leiserowitz from Yale University was surprised by the “remarkable” low level of climate denial in Ireland.
Nearly all Irish people think future generations and people in developing countries will be harmed by climate change. 90% of people believe Ireland has a national responsibility to act on the issue. They believe Ireland should do what it can to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In contrast, only 9% of people say Ireland is too small to make a difference on a global scale.
Responses to the survey did not reveal a large urban-rural divide among Irish attitudes towards climate action. The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, believes this research “will provide valuable insights as we develop policies and initiatives that will support people as we make this transition together”.
Public trust and climate literacy
Nine in ten Irish people trust scientists as a source of information on climate change. This greatly reduces the risk of misinformation relating to climate change being circulated among the public. Other trusted sources include the EPA, educators, family and friends, and weather reporters.
Responses also suggest a good level of climate literacy in Ireland. 72% of people say they “often” or “occasionally” discuss climate change with friends and family. Half of Irish people hear about climate change in the media once a week or more often. A large number are also willing to take political actions and participate in political campaigns to promote climate action.
Support for government climate policy
A majority of people indicated they would also support government climate policies. 79% of Irish people say climate change should be either a “very high” or “high” priority for government. 90% believe citizens, the government, and businesses should be doing more to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of Irish people intend to increase their consumer activism in 2022. Large majorities say they would support spending carbon tax revenues on the development of renewable energy, green infrastructure, and climate adaptation programmes.
Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Ireland, Deirdre Duff, was encouraged by the strong support to make climate policy a high priority for government. She commented “there is a strong suggestion too that we’ve reached a point where delayed climate action will be punished in the polls”.
People across the country are positive about the impact of climate change policies in Ireland. 62% of people believe climate action will improve economic growth and create jobs. 78% say taking action to combat climate change will improve the quality of life for Irish people. Speaking on the findings, Director General of the EPA Laura Burke emphasised “as a country – we are ready for the transition to climate neutrality and resilience, people see the benefits to themselves and Ireland in general and many are already advanced on the journey.”
Positive public attitudes now present Ireland with a significant opportunity to demonstrate climate leadership on a global scale. According to Dr Leiserowitz, continued dialogue between the Irish public and policymakers is necessary in order to take the next step on the journey to climate neutrality.