Of seven counties surveyed by Vattenfall, however, UK was the only outlier, where residents now view epidemics as a bigger threat than the climate crisis
Most Europeans still view climate change as the biggest issue facing humanity, even despite an inevitable surge in concern over the threat of epidemics in the wake of Covid-19, a new survey commissioned by Swedish energy giant Vattenfall has found.
The UK proved to be an exception, however, with the poll results released yesterday showing Britons harbour greater worries over the risk of disease and pandemics than they do with regards to the growing impacts of climate change.
Conducted by pollster TNS Kantar in late June, the survey quizzed 7,300 adults across seven European countries - Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France and the UK - on what they considered to be the biggest problem facing the world, with more than 1,000 respondents from the UK.
It follows a near identical survey carried out just six months earlier on behalf of Vattenfall in December 2019, which saw a third of UK respondents place climate change as the most serious problem facing the world , placing it ahead of global issues such as war, poverty or the threat of an economic recession.
The latest poll carried out in June 2020 therefore offers window into understanding how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted people's perception of global risks over the past six months, according to the firm.
In the UK, epidemics were elevated from the least pressing problem (selected by five per cent of respondents in the earlier survey), to the most (selected by 28 per cent), overtaking climate change, which 18 per cent selected as the most pressing problem, falling from 34 per cent last December.
Yet in every other country surveyed, climate change continued to top people's list of concerns. Indeed, in the Netherlands and Sweden, a decrease in the prominence of war and conflict among people's worries saw climate change move clear as the most important issue. In Sweden, the number of people listing it as their biggest priority actually increased from 31 per cent to 33 per cent.
Other issues named by respondents include poverty, recession and lack of food/water. Unsurprisingly, concern over epidemics spiked in nearly all seven countries, although the biggest percentage point increase occurred in the UK, where it was up by 23 per cent, while in Denmark concern over the issue actually fell from 25 to 17 per cent.
Taken on average across the seven countries, climate change was ranked as the biggest concern, at 28 per cent, down from 32 per cent in December last year. Epidemics came a close second, at 20 per cent, up from just six per cent last year, with wars and conflict third, falling from 23 per cent to 14 per cent,
Despite these shifts, the share of people in the UK expressing some degree of concern about climate change remained largely unaffected by the pandemic, with 72 per cent describing themselves as "quite" or "a great deal" worried about climate change. Moreover, 60 per cent said that the highest priority should be given to continuing or increasing climate change commitments, even if it slows down the economic recovery, with 40 per cent believing short-term economic considerations should take precedence.
Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall said the poll findings showed climate change was still top of the agenda for most Europeans, and would embolden the firm in its shift away from fossil fuels from its business to focus on clean energy.
"It is clear that our emotions towards climate change remain unchanged even in the wake of a global health crisis," he said.
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