Love For Future Generations Motivates People to Support Climate Action
A report surveying 58,000 people across five continents has found that there is significant support for climate action.

There is overwhelming support for immediate government action on climate change, according to a global report from 23 countries.

Over three-quarters (77%) of people agree with the statement, “It is essential that our government does whatever it takes to limit the effects of climate change,” and just over 10% disagree, according to the report produced by non-profit Potential Energy Coalition, research institute Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and philanthropies Meliore Foundation and Zero Ideas.

Some 58,000 people across five continents were surveyed to gauge support for climate action and what messages motivate people to work towards accelerating climate action.

Last year was the hottest on record by a huge margin, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Apart from smashing temperature records, the average global temperatures were on many occasions 1.45° C higher than the pre-industrial era, and just shy of breaching the target of 1.5° C set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Next week global leaders will meet in Davos, Switzerland to discuss urgent global issues, including climate change.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. We are already taking action but we have to do more and we have to do it quickly. We have to make drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources,” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo, who took charge at the start of the year.

Climate action requires global consensus, and according to this report by Potential Energy Coalition, it exists already.

Across all 23 countries surveyed there was support for climate action. The narrative that most resonated with people was the generational narrative about protecting the planet for their children.

Safeguarding next generation resonates most

According to message testing, people are not looking for endless economic growth or jobs. Instead, across every country, concern for the next generation was the dominant reason for action on climate change – 12 times more popular than creating jobs.

“In randomised controlled trial message tests, the most effective narrative — the urgent generational message — lifted the level of global strong support for climate action by an average of 11% points,” the report says.

“In every country in the study, the ‘later is too late’ narrative outperformed messages focused on economic opportunity, fighting injustice, improving health, or even preventing extreme weather,” according to the report.

Protecting the planet for future generations was the biggest motivator for climate action, 12 times more powerful than job growth.

“When we talk about this, about the urgency to act for our kids, for what we love, it moves people a lot,” said Jessica Lu, senior manager for strategy and analytics at Potential Energy Coalition. “This was by far the most effective, the most universal message.

“The data is saying repeatedly, what is the thing that matters most? It’s our love for the next generation, protecting all the things that we care about so that they have a livable and safe future,” she said.

Lu added that another important takeaway is that, when the message is done right, it can move people across age, gender, countries and political spectrum.

United States stands out as an anomaly

There was great support for climate action in developing countries but lower support in the countries with high per capita emissions of carbon.

For instance, citizens from the United States – responsible for 25% of the historic carbon emissions – showed the least support for climate action. In contrast, in countries like Chile and Kenya that are extremely vulnerable to climate change citizens expressed large support for climate action.

The report also found that how a message is framed has a significant impact on how it is received.

“Frames that included the words mandate, ban or phaseout on average had nine points lower support (and in some cases, up to 20 points lower support) than those that did not. Framings that included ideas like upgrading, setting standards, making solutions accessible, and reducing dependency performed significantly better,” the report says.

US has the least among of support for climate policy, compared to the other 22 countries surveyed.

It is okay to create worry

Over the years, as the climate coverage, so has the anxiety around it among those consuming the news. There are reports about young people feeling paralysing fear and therapists having to deal with a rise in climate anxiety.

John Marshall, the founder and CEO of Potential Energy Coalition, said simple messages that educate people about climate change and let people know that is a concern are the most effective.

“It’s okay to create worry. And in fact, it makes sense to create worry because most people don’t know enough about this. So go through the front door, talk about climate, convey the nature of the risk, and give solutions. That is much more effective than getting super creative about ideas, about jobs and prosperity,” Marshall said.

Image Credits: Unsplash.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.