Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding and changes in the frequency of extreme weather events are the top public concerns regarding climate change impacts on the marine environment. These are among the main messages emerging from the first ever European poll of public attitudes to marine climate change impacts, the results of which were presented at a major Marine Climate Change Conference in Brussels yesterday (15th September 2011).
Other results from the poll show that European citizens are also concerned about the impacts of climate change on the marine and coastal environments, are reasonably well informed and are willing to take appropriate action. Many European citizens are already taking personal actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but are concerned that individual actions are of little consequence given the scale of the problem. Citizens also tend to blame climate change on other groups of people or nations and assign governments and industry with responsibility for solutions.
The European poll, funded by the EU FP7 CLAMER Project, took place in January 2011 and involved over 10,000 European citizens from 10 countries. The extension of the poll to include the Republic of Ireland was co-sponsored by the Marine Institute, the Environment Protection Agency and the Heritage Council of Ireland.
To mark the launch of the European poll results, the Irish co-sponsors have prepared a short report “What the Irish public know about marine climate change impacts and how we compare to our European neighbours” which compares Irish citizen views to those of our European neighbours.
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute said that “in identifying specific Irish concerns and comparing them with corresponding European views, we can learn a lot about Irish perspectives and awareness. This in turn can guide the regulatory authorities and research community in communicating more effectively with the public about coping with climate change.”
Some interesting facts to emerge include that:
- The Irish and Spanish are the most concerned about marine climate change impacts, the French, British and the Czechs are the least concerned;
- Whereas the physical impacts of climate change are both of concern and known, the more subtle impacts of climate change on biological systems (shifts in species distribution and phenology) appear to be less well appreciated;
- 58% of Irish respondents are concerned about changes in ocean current circulation leading to sudden/abrupt large scale changes in marine ecosystems even though there is no coherent evidence to suggest that major changes in ocean circulation are occurring;
- Italians, the most southerly of the countries surveyed, expressed the most concern about melting Arctic sea ice, while Norway, the most northerly, voiced the least concern;
- The Dutch, who are the most at risk from sea level rise, are the least concerned, putting a lot of trust in their government to take the necessary actions;
- The main source of information for most European citizens on climate change is television;
- Irish citizens receive a higher proportion of information from radio than their European neighbours;
- Respondents from Ireland and the UK obtain a relatively high percentage of information on marine climate change issues from government reports.
Laura Burke, EPA Director, stated "The EPA welcomes the level of awareness of climate change issues in Ireland which the survey shows. As an island nation on the European Atlantic boundary we are particularly vulnerable to changes already occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean. These will increase in the coming years and decades. Awareness is the first step to actions. The survey shows where communication has been good and also where more attention is needed as we plan to adapt to these changes."
Beatrice Kelly of the Heritage Council of Ireland said, "It is important that these results are put to constructive use by the regulatory authorities and other agencies and organisations who seek to inform and shape public attitudes and behaviour in mitigating and adapting to climate change."
As well as the European Poll results, the CLAMER Climate Change Conference also heard the results of a scientific assessment of existing information on the impacts of climate change on the marine environment. In addition to well known impacts such as rising sea levels, increased storms, coastal erosion and flooding and the northward migrations of commercial fish species, they also heard of increased risks of illness, property damage and job losses as a result the impacts of climate change in the seas around us.
Other outputs from the project include: ·
- Scientific Report: Climate Change and Marine Ecosystem Research: Synthesis of European Research on the Effects of Climate Change on Marine Environments. 151pp.
- DVD “Living with a Warming Ocean.
Full details on the CLAMER project and its deliverables are available at www.clamer.eu/ .
The Irish CLAMER brochure can be downloaded in PDF format fromhttp://oar.marine.ie/handle/10793/646