The (un)willingness to take action on climate change

The subject of previous post was the opinion of the Flemish people on the nuclear exit. The survey question that I looked at (“We must keep nuclear power plants open, also after 2025”) was only one of four questions in the category “Policy positions”. There were three other policy positions surveyed that I will look into in this post. I will also look into the results of some related questions like the category “Willingness to take action”, the “Willingness to give up on part of income” and whether “too little or too much measures were taken”.

In the meanwhile, I found a link to the survey report, so I don’t have to rely solely on the general numbers that the reporter selected, but I can show more details.

The three other policy positions are:

  • The effects of climate change are being exaggerated (light grey bar)
  • Flying should become more expensive by taxing the tickets even more (dark grey bar)
  • Our CO2 emissions must be reduced by introducing a mileage tax (black bar)

De Stemming 2022 part 3: policy positions

This on a scale of 1=strongly disagree 2=disagree 3=agree 4=strongly agree and only those who agreed (3 and 4) are shown. The first bundle is the average of all participants, the other bundles are ordered from far left (second bundle) to the far right (last bundle)

Only a minority considered the effects of climate change being exaggerated (33%). That share was the lowest among Green party voters (21%) and the highest among the far right voters (54%). That 21% of the Green party voters agree that the effects of climate change are exaggerated doesn’t really surprises me. I was a long-term Green party voter until a decade ago and back then even I did believe that the scientists somewhat exaggerated the effects of climate change. My opinion was more a “somewhat agree” than a “strongly agree”, I believed that the scientists did this in order to capture the attention of the public and was okay with that.
I however think the difference between Green and far right voters is probably bigger than it is presented. Category 3 (agree) and 4 (strongly agree) are lumped together, so my guess is that Green party voters mostly fall into the category 3 and the far right voters mostly in the category 4.

About half of the participants agreed with the two following positions: 58% of the Flemish people that participated in the survey agreed that airline tickets should be taxed more and 47% agreed with the introduction of a mileage tax. Unsurprisingly, that share was the highest among the Green party voters (79% and 70% respectively).

Having these opinions is one thing, acting on it is quite another. This brings us to the category “Willingness to take action” in which participants were asked what they were willing to do to stop climate change. Three questions were asked (on a scale from 0=nothing to 10=strongly agree) whether one was willing to:

  • Fly less (average for all participants: 6.5)
  • Drive less (average: 6.0)
  • Eat less meat (average: 5.1)

De Stemming 2022 part 3: willingness to take action

Participants were willing to fly less and also to drive less, but eating less meat is a bit more difficult.

Another willingness to act is financial. The survey also asked whether the participants would be willing to give up on part of their income if they were sure that this way global warming could be stopped (on a scale from 0=not willing to give up anything at all to 10=completely willing to give up on a part of their income):

De Stemming 2022 part 3: give up part of income

The average for all participants was 3.4, meaning that most participants were not much willing to give up on part of their income, even if they were sure it could stop climate change. Only the Green party voters scored somewhat willing to give up part of their income (5.8).

This seems to be contradicted by the question whether the participants think that our country is taking too little or too much measures to prevent global warming (scale of 0=too little over 5=sufficient to 10=too much):

De Stemming 2022 part 3: sufficient measures or not

Most participants think that too little measures are being taken and the Green party voters obviously think this the most. The far right voters however tend towards thinking that too much measures are being taken. The average of 4.4 (more participants tend to believe too little measures are taken) made the reporter conclude that “there is still support for more measures”, with a weird emphasis on the word “more”.

The survey also asked what the participants think is the biggest problem currently:

De Stemming 2022: most important problem (open question)

Climate change is scoring just 4% (which is relatively high compared to the two previous years where climate change only scored 1%). Compare this to the closed question that asked which topic is the most important from a list of worries (participants could select two items):

De Stemming 2022: most important problem (closed question)

Now climate change scores 13%.

Basically, when participants are asked what worries them the most as an open question, then climate change is near the bottom of the list. Given a list of worries and the possibility to choose multiple items, then climate change makes a modest entry. Apparently, climate change is not at the top of most people’s list of worries. Although most think that the effects of climate change are not exaggerated and are willing to take some actions like flying and/or driving less, their willingness seems to be limited. People tend to believe in climate change, but only a few are willing to actually pay up to solve it.

All this is not that surprising, many other surveys around the world find the same trends.

There were however two more questions in the climate part of the survey. Those were gauging the level of knowledge regarding to climate change (and energy) and there it gets more interesting, but that is something for next post.


4 thoughts on “The (un)willingness to take action on climate change

  1. Chris Morris

    The question that was asked here but should be asked more often everywhere is the specific “How much extra are you individually prepared to pay every week for the country to lower its carbon emissions by say half?” Then putting actual costs on it – giving a range of values, going from zero to say half the minimum wage or benefit level. That would sort out the commitment level.
    When it has been done in various countries, the data shows that most (>50%) aren’t prepared to pay anything more than a token amount. And that answer shows why the question isn’t asked. The activists don’t want it known that the public does not want going green to cost them, just the mythical someone else. What the cynics call virtue signalling.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      You are correct. I also cam across surveys with more specificity. That is indeed a flaw in this survey. It would have been more useful if they asked a more detailed question than the very broad 0=unwilling to 10=willing. The only thing we now know is that the Flemish people tend towards unwillingness to give up part of their income, but we don’t know how much that actually is (probably very little).


      1. bezotch

        I think that the qualifier attached to the question ” if they were sure that this way global warming could be stopped” is important.
        Support for any policy would naturally have to be higher if one assumes that it would actually work than if one doesn’t make that assumption.

        There are plenty of government policies that I could support if they actually worked, the problem is, most don’t.

        Given that my government’s spending will have no perceptible impact on climate change, let alone stop it altogether, the question is rather absurd.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s