PERITIA: Irish people less concerned about climate change than health care or housing

Posted 29 June, 2022

Less than 25% of the Irish public think climate change is a more pressing concern than housing or healthcare, according to a new UCD-led study.

This is despite one in four people in Ireland saying that climate change is already affecting them personally.

These findings are part of research by the Horizon 2020 project PERITIA – Policy Expertise and Trust in Action – an EU-funded project led by UCD aiming to help citizens and policymakers understand trust in science and identify trustworthy expertise.

The study, which surveyed over 12,000 people across six European countries, found that only 22% of Irish adults felt climate change was among their biggest concerns.

On average, it was healthcare and housing that people in Ireland (45%) said most worried them.

In the other countries surveyed, unemployment in Italy, inflation in Poland and poverty and social inequality in Germany and Norway were the main issues of concern, ahead of climate change.

However, people in Ireland were found to be the most optimistic tackling climate change, with 65% of people disagreeing that climate change was beyond control and that it was too late to do anything about it.

Of the other five countries surveyed, on average, 48% of people felt the same. Only 18% of people in Ireland agree that climate change is beyond our control.

Worryingly the study found that both Ireland and other European nations the public has hugely underestimate the extent of the scientific consensus on climate change.

The Irish public said that 71% of climate scientists had concluded human-caused climate change is happening – far lower than the reality of 99.9%, as revealed in previous academic research.

The other nations surveyed fare worse however in recognising the true level of scientific agreement, with the UK the least accurate at 65%.

“There is still a gap in how people perceive the scientific consensus on climate change, and the actual reality of overwhelmingly agreement among climate scientists that climate change is due to human actions,” said Professor Maria BaghramianUCD School of Philosophy and coordinator and project leader of PERITIA.

“It also appears that people see climate change as something affecting future generations more than themselves.

“These are very important findings when considering the urgency of action on climate change, but it can be difficult to get the message across to people when they are more worried about issues like healthcare and housing.”

The research also reveals 54% of people in Ireland think oil companies hide technology that could make cars run without petrol or diesel, an almost identical belief shared across the six nations surveyed.

In terms of the least concerned about climate change, Norwegians were the most consistent - while the public in Ireland (81%) and Italy (82%) agreed climate change was caused by human activities, in Norway almost one quarter do not believe this.

And 27% in Norway said climate change was causing their country harm right now – the lowest among the nations surveyed – and 63% report being worried about such impacts compared with

Despite large majorities of people saying they are worried about the impact of climate change; most were less inclination to give more in taxes to address it.

In Ireland, only 34% of people say they would give part of their income in taxes to help prevent climate change.

This latest survey was carried out by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and covered six countries – Ireland, the UK, Italy, Germany, Norway, and Poland.

The countries were selected to reflect differences across factors such as location within Europe, population size, GDP levels, political structure, and levels of trust in institutions, as measured in previous studies.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations