Indians believe govt needs to tackle climate change: Study

Very few who know about climate change question the science

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Published: October 12, 2012 1:04:42 am

A Yale Foundation study has found that Indians understand and respond to the idea of climate change affecting their lives and their future prospects,and have faith in science to tackle it.

Called ‘Climate Change in the Indian Mind’,the study conducted interviews with 4,031 Indian adults,both rural and urban,to find out their responses,awareness,behaviour and approach to climate change.

When first asked about it,only 7 per cent said they knew “a lot” about global warming,while 41 per cent said they “did not know” or had “never heard of it”. However,when explained in detail,about 72 per cent said they believed it was happening. A majority were also keen to look for solutions.

However,among the most striking things about the study,according to Prof Anthony Leiserowitz — head of Yale University-based Yale Project on Climate Change Communication — was the receptivity of Indians to science and solutions offered by it to ill-effects of climate change.

While awareness of the idea of climate change as understood internationally was lower in India than in the US,he told The Indian Express,“there is a small,but powerful minority of the public in the US that doubts or dismisses the reality or threat of climate change. By contrast,of those Indians that have heard of the issue,relatively few question the science”.

Scientists,in fact,were the most trusted sources of information on global warming,with about 73 per cent reposing their faith in them,followed by the news media (69 per cent). About half of the respondents placed their trust in government or religious leaders.

About 61 per cent of those interviewed felt global warming affected them personally,and that steps should be taken to counteract it. About 67 per cent felt it would harm future generations by impacting on plant and animal species,while 62 per cent felt people in India would be affected by this in the future. Those who felt their own families would be affected if global warming wasn’t checked numbered around 57 per cent. A significant 43 per cent felt it would be harmful in the next 10 years for Indians generally.

In another set of interesting findings,38 per cent felt that India should reduce emissions irrespective of what others did,18 per cent felt Indians should do so only if rich countries did so,13 per cent felt Indians should go ahead only if all other countries did so at the same time while 13 per cent felt that India should not reduce its emissions under any circumstances.

The foreword of the study has been written by Dr R K Pachauri,the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,and Director,TERI. Pachauri commends the Leiserowitz-led study for taking a keen interest in what he terms “intergenerational issues” of balancing current needs with those of future generations,which lie at the heart of the sustainability debate.

The study was conducted in November-December 2011 by Yale Foundation in collaboration with GlobeScan.

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