In Turkey, 50% of the public believes that climate change is a greater threat than the virus.

İklim Haber and KONDA Research and Consultancy’s “Perceptions of Climate Change and Environmental Issues Turkey 2020”, a follow-up to the 2018 and 2019 climate change perception reports, has once again revealed surprising results. The previous 2018 and 2019 reports had exposed that climate change is a worrisome fact for a significant majority of the public in Turkey, regardless of political preferences and socio-economic circumstances. These reports had revealed that while every 3 out of 4 people were worried about climate change, 25% of the public believed it was highly unlikely for the government to take necessary measures.

İklim Haber and KONDA Research and Consultancy have once again joined efforts to measure the public’s perception of the deepening climate crisis. Our goal was to prepare the 2020 questions in light of the global COVID-19 crisis, the post-COVID economic recovery plans as well as the climate change impacts of last year and national and international climate change research. “Perceptions of Climate Change and Environmental Issues Turkey 2020” strives to understand how climate change impacts, climate change urgency and climate action are perceived in Turkey in light of a pandemic that is affecting our lives.

There have been some concurrent climate change developments while the world faced another global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Union announced its European Green Deal plan to become carbon neutral by 2050 and China, Japan and South Korea followed suit with their own carbon neutrality targets. The post-pandemic green recovery discussions have gained momentum. Demands to governments for divestment from the largest contributors to climate change -such as polluting sectors and notably the fossil fuel sector- grew stronger and governments were reminded that green jobs should constitute the backbone of economic recovery packages.

As the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C shows, urgent, comprehensive and unprecedented transformations in all aspects of life are required to tackle climate change. Although “climate action” in 2020 was not as strong as it was in 2019 because of COVID-19, online “school strikes” increased pressure on world leaders, particularly in EU countries. In Turkey, the school strike for climate movement as well as demands to prioritize climate action and green economic transformation in central and local governments continued to grow. In light of these developments, we decided that the “Perceptions of Climate Change and Environmental Issues Turkey 2020” survey should compare the destructions caused by climate change and COVID-19, and cover post-pandemic economic recovery preferences, climate change causes and concerns and impacts in Turkey, the climate actions that Turkey can take as well as energy preferences in Turkey.

For this purpose, eleven questions were asked in face to face surveys to 3,431 people in place of residence in 190 neighborhoods and villages of 105 districts (including city centers) in 32 provinces. The answers were matched with those given to political and social preferences and trends. The 18 neighborhood surveys applied age and sex quota sampling. The survey was carried out with KONDA Research and Consultancy’s stratified sampling based on neighborhood and village population size and level of education data obtained from Address-based Population Registration System data and the 1 November 2015 General Election neighborhood and village results. The sample was designed to identify and monitor the trends and transformations of the subjects representing the 15+ adult population in Turkey. The margin of error is +/- 1.7 for the 95% confidence interval and +/- 2.3 for the 99% confidence interval. The survey also drew upon European Perceptions of Climate Change 2017 and the 2017 European Social Survey conducted in 18 European countries.

İklim Haber and KONDA Research and Consultancy’s 2018 “Climate Change Perception and Energy Preferences in Turkey” demonstrated that society’s first choice was solar energy. The 2019 “Climate Change Perception in Turkey” also indicated that society agreed on the reality of climate change and its significant threats.

In 2020, the pandemic changed the world’s agenda. Like a preview of the climate crisis, COVID-19 has turned everything upside down and postponed the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26). The significant economic crisis that is accompanying COVID-19 is testing the world’s capability to cope. Climate action took a step back particularly with the onset of the pandemic. While governments began to announce recovery packages to deal with the economic depression caused by lockdowns and other restrictions, the biggest discussions centered around which sectors would benefit from these packages. NGO and young climate activists put increasing global pressure on governments, demanding that governments do not use the pandemic as an excuse to bail out polluting sectors such as the fossil fuel sector.

Amidst all of these discussions, the EU’s Green Deal plan pledging carbon neutrality by 2050, China’s pledge and Joe Biden’s election as U.S. President were encouraging developments for the climate movement.

Widening worry on climate change
The 2020 survey repeated the “Are you worried about climate change? How worried are you” question for a third year; almost 70% (69.3%) answered “I  am worried” or “I am very worried”, compared to 74.7% in 2018 and 60.5% in 2019. “I am not worried” and “I am not at all worried” accounted for only 17.2% of the answers.

Climate-induced disasters are increasing
Another question we repeated for the third year was “Did irregular weather events in Turkey such as floods, storms, extreme heat and drought increase or decrease in recent years?” The percentage of respondents who answered “Irregular weather events increased” jumped to 85.2% from 71.1% last year. The percentage of respondents who chose to say “Irregular weather events decreased” decreased every year, with 6.5% in 2018, 5.4% in 2019 and 2.5% in 2020.

The climate crisis is caused by human activities!
“Which statement best expresses your opinion on climate change” was a new question asked for the first time in this year’s survey. While 71.4% of respondents said “It is a result of human activities”, 28.6% said “It is a natural process”. When asked about the causes of climate change, respondents cited destruction of green spaces (65.7%), petroleum use (41.6%) and coal mining and coal-fired power generation (32.6%).

Another new question to test climate change awareness
in Turkey was “Some say that climate change will create a bigger crisis and more damage than the coronavirus. Which statement best expresses your opinion?” 51.5% of respondents said “Yes, the climate crisis is a bigger crisis than the virus”, and 42% said “The climate crisis is also a serious issue, but it is not as urgent”, whereas only 6.5% said “The climate crisis does not exist”.

You can reach the full report by clicking here.

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