Concerns about environment mostly unchanged during pandemic, study suggests

Conor Riordan, PA Scotland

Concerns over climate change are “here to stay” as the coronavirus pandemic has had little impact on people’s worries, according to researchers.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh compared responses to questions about fears for the environment taken in April 2019 with those taken in June 2020.

Results showed only small shifts in public opinion, with answers to four of the five questions only revealing slightly increased concern since the onset of the pandemic.

Dr Darrick Evensen, of the university’s school of social and political science, said: “Following the financial crisis, it seemed that climate change was one thing that gave, and most people saw it as less of a problem.

“We are not seeing that same crowding out of climate change as an issue of concern now.

“This means heightened societal attention to climate change is here to stay.”

Emissions
Researchers said concerns about climate change have not reduced during the pandemic (PA)

Researchers compared responses to the pandemic with the financial turmoil of 2008 to better understand how worries and priorities can change in a crisis.

The pandemic has not decreased people’s belief in the severity of climate change, contrasting with reduced concern about environmental issues following the economic collapse.

Scientists say these findings shed light on how a concept called the “finite pool of worry” applies to climate change.

The theory proposes that there are only so many things a person can care about, and some concerns are replaced by others when a major crisis happens.

But in this case climate change was not replaced by other issues, researchers say.

The poll surveyed 1,858 people in the UK in April 2019 and asked the same questions again in June 2020.

It included five questions to gauge people’s beliefs about the reality of climate change, and four about how severe they think it is.

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