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Climate change threat underestimated by people in fossil fuel reliant countries

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Off shore oil and gas rig

Lloyd's Register Foundation has highlighted a worrying link between reliance on fossil fuels and climate change perceptions.

Focus On: Fossil fuel dependency and perceptions of climate change

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According to Lloyd’s Register Foundation, people in countries with a high dependence on fossil fuel production for internal energy needs or exports are less likely to view climate change as a threat. It follows the latest analysis of the latest World Risk Poll, powered by Gallup, which surveyed 125,000 people across 121 countries.

The Poll asked respondents whether they think climate change will be a threat to people in their country in the next 20 years. At a global level, 41% of respondents said climate change is a ‘very serious threat’, increasing to 67% when people who see it as a ‘somewhat serious threat’ are included.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation also found that in all countries where energy contributes more than 50% of all exports, less than 50% of the population view climate change as a ‘very serious threat’. This includes Norway, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is set to host the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, later this year. This compares with numerous countries, especially in Europe and Latin America, where concern is much higher, with as many as 87% of people in the most concerned country, Chile, calling climate change a ‘very serious threat’.

This variation can also be seen at a regional level. In Norway – a major fossil fuel producer – for example, 45% of the population view climate change as a ‘very serious threat’. However, those in Western Norway and Northern Norway - home to most of the country’s offshore oil and gas fields - are considerably less concerned about climate change, with 40% and 31% respectively viewing it as a ‘very serious threat’.

The analysis from Lloyd’s Register Foundation has been detailed in its latest World Risk Poll Focus On report, Fossil fuel dependence and perceptions of climate change. With evidence that fewer people in regions economically dependent on fossil fuel production see climate change as a threat, the global charity is calling for economic diversification in fossil fuel producing countries, with greater incentivisation of low-carbon technologies and renewable energy.

We are reminded of the disastrous impact climate change is having on our world every day. Whether it’s the devastation caused by flooding, wildfires or extended heatwaves, there is no denying the imminent threat to our planet. It should therefore be of concern for us all that so many people, particularly those from countries and regions reliant on fossil fuel production, still ­­­do not see it as a threat to their safety.

Dr. Tim Slingsby, Director of Skills and Education, Lloyd's Register Foundation

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is now calling on governments and stakeholders within the fossil fuel industry to work together on workforce transition plans, to ensure industry workers are upskilled in green energy or other sectors where transferrable skills are relevant. The shipping industry is providing an example for how this can be done, led by the Maritime Just Transition Task Force which, with funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, is using a people-centred approach to transition to a zero-carbon shipping industry.

Tim Slingsby added: “Fossil fuel producing countries must push forwards efforts to accelerate diversification, implementing clear plans to re-skill workers for the transition to greener technologies. This requires collaborative thinking and communication from both national and local governments, as well as global industry stakeholders.

“Without action, many people may continue to not see climate change as a serious threat, making the transition to greener technologies harder to implement. Time is already running out, and we must use this latest data as a catalyst to make changes that improve lives and minimise risk across the world.”

Jebi Rahman, Head of Global Implementation, Governments and Policy at Climate Group, said: "We've had all the warnings we need when it comes to the impacts of climate change - now it's time to act. That means phasing out fossil fuel extraction and investing in sustainable energy sources to meet demand. Whether it's extreme floods in Italy or record heatwaves in India, the message couldn't be clearer: climate change is here and we need to adapt to a new normal. This is true for every level of government, from cities to states, regions and countries. We simply can't continue to turn a blind eye and pretend there can be business as usual."

Read the full report