Climate Change and the Greeks

What are the opinions and attitudes of Greek women and men on issues related to climate change? Do they understand the consequences? Who do they think is responsible for solving the problem? And what do they themselves do about it?

The survey was conducted on a nationwide sample of 2.005 people aged 17 and over, by telephone and online, in the period 6-27 April 2022 by the company Metron Analysis on behalf of the Greek Ministry for Climate Crisis & Civil Protection.

The results will be a tool for the Ministry’s future political actions, which include the drafting of a new National Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Some of the key findings and conclusions drawn from the results are presented below:

After an (unprecedented in history) upheaval during the pandemic period, Greek citizens have returned to normality: 60.6% now believe that “the country is moving in the wrong direction“, compared to 31% who believe that it is moving in the right direction. correct. This is a question that is often asked in similar surveys, regardless of the topic and context, and captures the general mood in society. It is worth mentioning that in April 2020, in the midst of the first quarantine, the percentages on the same question were respectively 9.6% (towards “wrong”) and 85.7% (towards “correct”). As usually happens in normal conditions, the answers to this question are directly linked to the ideological positions of the respondents, while the young and the unemployed are almost always less optimistic. Conversely, on another, similar question of whether “the world” is moving in the right or wrong direction, all ideological-political categories of the population more or less agree: the world is going in the wrong direction. This corresponds to 66.9% of the total.

To the question “what do you think is the most important problem facing the country“, the most popular answers given by Greeks – by a wide margin from the next – are “accuracy” (25.9%) and “economy” (24.3%). However, to the question “what do you think is the most important problem facing the planet today“, which respondents were also given the opportunity to answer spontaneously, the most common answer was “destruction of the natural environment” (17%) with “climate change” to appear in third place (13.1%). The distinction between the two concepts, as perceived by other questions and also in other surveys, is not entirely clear in the minds of the respondents. However, they mention both quite often.

Other major problems of our planet are wars (13.6%), accuracy (11.1%), poverty and inequalities (8.9%) and “the economy” (8.1%). It is interesting here that some differences appear in the age categories, which are not as expected. While nearly 40% of the sample’s “boomers” (that is, respondents aged 58-67) choose either “climate change” or “environmental destruction” as the most important problem on the planet, only 24% of the members of “Gen Z” (ages 17-25) and 20% of “Millennials” (ages 26-41) answer the same. For both categories of younger Greeks, a very important problem for the planet is “accuracy” (18%).

However, Greeks universally recognize that there is a problem. 90.5% of respondents agree that climate change “exists”, and 90% of them believe it is “mainly human-caused“. These are extremely high percentages, common to all categories of the population, which underline that the “denial” of climate change is an extremely limited phenomenon in Greek society. In fact, when respondents were asked to rate how serious a problem they consider climate change to be today on a scale of 1 to 10, nearly one in three answered “10” and 82.2% chose a number of 7 or higher. The average value in their ratings was 8.8.

For example, the products of a circular economy must be designed from the outset so that they are easier to repair and do not need to be replaced (and thrown away) whenever they break. The production process itself, moreover, must be designed to reduce waste and reuse available resources. It’s not a simple thing at all.

When asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 how threatening they consider various impacts of climate change, the majority rated all impacts from “food security” to “4” or “5” (56.3%) and “social inequalities” (63.7%) to “energy crisis” (79.7%) and “forest fires” (85.6%).

On the subject of dealing with climate change, however, a very high percentage of respondents believe that “we the citizens” are responsible for dealing with climate change. More than 1 in 3 choose this answer, more than those who believe “business and industry” (22.4%), the UN (11.7%), the European Union (28.7%) or the Municipalities (6.9%). The majority, as might be expected, believe that the responsibility for dealing with climate change lies mainly with “national governments“.

The majority, however, believe that both “the State” and “the EU” are doing “little” to deal with the problem.

On individual environmental issues, respondents place the burden of responsibility only partially on the state. When asked if “cleaning up the plots” should be the responsibility of the State or the citizens, 67.1% admitted that it is the responsibility of the citizens. Only 31.5% consider that cleaning the beaches is the responsibility of the State – 28.4% consider it to be the responsibility of the citizens, while almost 40% spontaneously answer “both“.

Most citizens, on the other hand, declare that they would like to participate in the future in actions and efforts related to “environmental protection” in general, from 60% who declared that they would like to participate in environmental organizations, up to 78% who would like to participate in tree planting/reforestation. The percentages among young people here appear slightly higher than those of older ages. The percentages of positive responses to questions about whether citizens have taken any action to “address climate change” in the last six months, such as reducing energy consumption at home or saving water, are also high. Far fewer say they have taken other drastic actions, such as installing solar panels at home or buying/leasing an electric car.

In the permanently topical issue of our country’s energy policy, the great majority of the population supports the shift to Renewable Energy Sources (RES). In the relevant question about “where do you think the economic resources of the country and the EU should be allocated“, 71.1% choose RES, while 26.1% fossil fuels (which for the needs of this question are divided into two options: “in the traditional fossil fuel model” and “in natural gas“). Although small differences appear (in the respondents from the Aegean islands, for example), the preference for RES is clearly in the majority in all categories of the population, in all ages and in the entire territory.

However, in individual topics some answers appear that could be perceived as contradictions. Respondents were presented with a series of “controversial” positions, some of which are well-known and discussed “myths” that now and then resurface in public debate, and asked to answer whether they agreed or disagreed with them. As can be seen, 73.4% agree that “the majority of fires are the result of deliberate arson“, 55.1% believe that “wind turbines spring up after devastating forest fires” and almost 1 in 3 think that “wind turbines instead of they help the environment they burden it“. When asked whether they would agree with the supply of electricity from neighboring countries that has been produced by nuclear energy (and therefore does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions), almost 60% of respondents say no.

Perhaps it is relevant that 70.2% of respondents say they get information about climate change from the internet (and an additional 34.2% specifically say social media), compared to 53.2% who get information from television and 26% informed by “friends and family“.

Contradictions appear elsewhere. 72.8% of citizens agree that “we should insure our property against natural disasters“. However, in another question below only 26.1% state that the house they live in is indeed insured for natural disasters.

Many times in the public debate the protection of the environment is discussed or referred to as an obstacle to economic development, or even the two concepts are referred to as incompatible or opposite. In practice, of course, one does not exclude the other (just as the ongoing climate crisis ensures that economic development in the future will become increasingly difficult) but in the research this issue was posed as a dilemma, to draw any indirect conclusions that can occur. Indeed, the general population appears divided in its views (the greatest emphasis on environmental protection is given by the elderly, leftists and farmers). And a 15% of the population (which reaches 25% in the older ages) completely rejects the dilemma by spontaneously answering “both“.

Finally, 81.3% of respondents consider the 112 notification service “very” or “fairly” useful, with 70.5% stating that they have received a message from 112, and 88.3% of them stating that have followed his instructions.

On the other hand, 78.1% of respondents do not know if there is an emergency plan in their Municipality in case of a natural disaster, while almost half have not even discussed a response plan in the event of such an event in their household.