Respondents were asked whether they would support the introduction of hefty penalties to countries that were unwilling to be part of the Paris agreement and 59% agreed.
Traditionally, German citizens have a high environmental awareness. As such, climate change is a top issue of discussion in German media mainly in magazines and newspapers e.g. the mirror (Der Spiegel). A weekly face-to-face survey involving 1,001 German citizens was carried out between 6-12th June, 2016 by Joint Programme Initiative-Climate Change, in collaboration with the University of Stuttgart, Germany. It was aimed at creating baseline data that would help policy makers and researchers comprehend the attitudes of German citizens towards climate change. The understanding of attitudes would help promote communication on climate change issues among stakeholders. Thus, the survey targeted German citizens aged 15 years and above. It covered attitudes towards climate change and energy preferences among others.
The survey started with a general question on what respondents thought would be the most important issue in Germany in the next 20 years. Respondents ranked climate change in position 10 (3%), after refugee crisis (14%), immigration (13%) and poverty/inequality (9%) among others. As to what terms came in mind on the mention of the words ‘climate change’, respondents gave responses such as “global warming (16%), unpredictable weather (15%), storms/flooding (13%), heatwave/droughts (13%), ice caps melting/rising sea levels (12%), pollution (11%), natural disasters (6%) and carbon emissions (4%) among others”. This indicated that they could associate climate change with real life shocks/events and or disasters.
Further, respondents were asked if they were worried about climate change and approximately, 30% said they were extremely worried. Also, about 83% of respondents believed that the global climate was changing while 16% did not. On the other hand, on the cause of climate change, approximately 16% of the respondents were doubtful that human activities were responsible. About 15% believed that climate change was completely caused by human activity while about 34% believed that both natural and human activities were responsible. To further understand the emotions of respondents towards climate change; 19% were hopeful, 25% were afraid, 30% had outrage and 14% felt guilty. These emotions indicate a higher percentage of people having negative feelings towards climate change meaning its impacts cause distress. This is true given that about 31% of the respondents believed that weather would be more wet with more storms/floods/rain. About 29% believed that the weather would be unpredictable while about 24% believed that the weather would be hotter/warm/dry/heat wave.
Respondents were asked whether they would support the introduction of hefty penalties to countries that were unwilling to be part of the Paris agreement and 59% agreed. When respondents were asked which renewable energy sources they would like their government to support, they responded: Biomass (58%), Hydroelectric power (85%), Solar power (87%), Onshore wind power (74%) and Offshore wind power (80%). This shows high support among respondents for renewable energy transition in Germany. This came out much more clearly because about half of the respondents, approximately, 53% were willing to support policies to reduce energy consumption to help tackle climate change. Additionally, 69% were in support of subsidies on wind and solar power and 60% were in support of subsidies for the insulation of homes. Also, 62% of respondents were willing to support a law that would ban the sale of energy inefficient household appliances. 71% were also willing to support spending of public money to counter the impacts of climate change. Finally, 51% of respondents were willing to support policies that would give money to developing countries to help them deal with extreme weather shocks such as flooding and drought.
Overall, inferences from the survey shows that German citizens understand climate change, can emotionally connect with it and are willing to support policies geared towards reducing its impacts. By extension, these findings indicate a high support for the Paris agreement.