Your browser is no longer supported. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

How do Europeans perceive and engage with climate change? New insight for France, Germany, Norway and the UK

By Adam Corner on June 29, 2016

Black Rock Solar and The Children's Cabinet conducted a joint field trip for students from Zephyr Cove Elementary. The Children's Cabinet - a nonprofit providing services to young people in the Reno area - is partially powered by a Black Rock Solar array.

The political uncertainty created by Brexit should not become a reason to halt pan-European work on pressing issues like climate change. By understanding how different European countries perceive climate change, progress can be made towards addressing this issue.

How does the culture and politics of a country shape its citizens’ perceptions of climate change? Do different European nations vary in their support for different energy technologies? And how have extreme weather events influenced national views about climate change, as climate impacts start to bite?

The European Perceptions of Climate Change (EPCC) project has been designed to answer precisely these kinds of questions. The centrepiece of the two year project, led by Cardiff University and funded by the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI), is a survey of more than 4000 people, split across four European nations: France, Germany, Norway and the UK. The survey is the first of its kind, designed by a project team made up of academics from each of these four countries, plus Climate Outreach.

Article continues below …

Further Reading

Reports & guides

European perceptions of climate change: recommendations for public engagement

In order to design the most informative, relevant survey possible, we started by doing some homework. Quite a lot of homework in fact…and the result is a new report, published today. The report takes each of the four countries involved in the survey and assesses them according to a set of criteria that we expected to have a major influence on public opinion:

  • Cultural, historical & policy context
  • Key people and organisations shaping public perceptions of energy and climate change
  • Key climate and energy-related events that have taken place
  • Anticipated consequences of climate change
  • Media reporting on energy and climate change

The report was based on the project team’s own research, plus the expertise of an international stakeholder panel. The extensive background research allowed us to generate some predictions about where differences in national public opinion might be found, and perhaps more importantly, why.

For example, each nation has a different energy mix. Nuclear power has historically been a (relatively) uncontroversial, and significant, part of the French energy sector. In Germany, accelerated by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, nuclear power has been phased out entirely. Norway’s considerable national wealth has been accumulated through vast exports of oil – but domestically the nation runs on low-carbon hydroelectricity. The UK has the world’s most ambitious decarbonisation targets but may be poised to embark on a nationwide process of ‘fracking’ for natural gas.

If the survey shows peaks and troughs in national perceptions of different energy technologies, our detailed analysis of the policy context in each country should help explain what these differences mean.

In terms of climate impacts, flooding is the dominant risk for the UK as the climate changes. Areas of neighbouring France have been historically susceptible to serious, deadly heatwaves, which look set to worsen. And Norway’s treasured ski-slopes are projected to shrink in size. Have these differing climate projections entered the psyche of citizens in each of these nations – and are people differentially susceptible to the accompanying risks?

Download the report to find out more, and learn about the socio-political context influencing public perceptions of climate change in these four nations. The survey itself will be carried out over the summer, with the results available by the end of the year.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss the results of the survey, sign up to our mailing list below to receive our monthly newsletter.

By Dr Adam Corner

Adam Corner is a writer and independent researcher who specialises in climate change communication and climate/culture collaborations. Adam worked with Climate Outreach between 2010-2021, helping to build the research team, developing Climate Visuals and Britain Talks Climate, and establishing the centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST). Adam has published widely on public engagement with climate change, from academic journals and reports for NGOs to media commentary (including for the Guardian and New Scientist). Currently Adam’s work is split between strategic climate communication projects (like the Local Storytelling Exchange), writing and contributing to reports, and developing the climate communication evidence base into music and cultural spaces.

Sign up to our newsletter