Is ‘Climate Fatigue’ Curbing Climate Action? New Research Points to a Troublesome Trend

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Decades of calls to action to curb greenhouse gas emissions have led to ‘climate fatigue’ around the world as the crisis becomes direr, new research finds.

Scientists have been calling for climate action for decades—and that continued request has taken its toll on consumers, the recent Gallup World Risk Poll found. Globally, concerns over climate change fell 1.5 percent last year.

Climate concern wanes as the crisis exacerbates

Drops happened in countries most in need of climate action; China, the world’s biggest climate polluter, saw concerns over the climate crisis drop three points from 2019 numbers to only 20 percent of consumers saying they think it’s an issue in need of immediate attention. In regions where ecological threats are the direst, the concern is at its lowest, the survey found. In the Middle East, only 24.7 percent showed concern, and in North Africa, it’s 39.1 percent.

Courtesy Pexels

Other research recently looked at whether beliefs shift based on scientific messaging on climate change. According to those findings, five out of six U.S. climate audiences including those dismissive of human-caused climate change to those most alarmed by it, update their beliefs based on scientific consensus.

The researchers also looked at how long those beliefs persisted, with 40 percent of the original treatment lingering after 26 days. For those most dismissive and doubtful about climate change, beliefs faded the least, meaning they remained doubtful and dismissive about climate change. 

The need for climate action is increasing

Climate change is taking a toll, however. Recent data from the Institute for Economics and Peace found more than 750 million people around the world are now experiencing impacts from climate change including water stress, increased air pollution, and a growing lack of access to healthy food.

The behavior findings come as the Global Plastics Policy Centre (GPPC) urged the United Nations to set a net-zero target for plastic pollution by 2040 as part of its upcoming Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution. The U.N.’s Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution has no defined target–it’s something still being negotiated by its 200 members.

Photo by Carlos Francis Fernandez on Unsplash

The request was made in an article published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment by Steve Fletcher, GPPC Director, and professor at the University of Portsmouth.

“The Global Plastic Treaty needs a target that is clearly defined,” Fletcher said. “At present, there is ambiguity about what ‘ending plastic pollution’ actually means. For the treaty to work it’s vital for there to be a single target and an agreed strategy,” he said.

According to Fletcher, the treaty’s target must be “ambitious and meaningful,” thus the call for the organization to aim for a minimum goal of zero percent new plastic pollution by 2040. 

“To achieve this, policymakers, businesses, researchers and wider society must go beyond the existing best available technology and practice and be radical in their thinking to develop a coordinated global strategy to tackle plastic pollution,” Fletcher said.

Lead image courtesy Pexels.


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