Poll: Willingness of Finns to take action to curb climate change is declining
Nearly half of Finns are nevertheless willing to pay climate tax
According to a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by Suomen Gallup, the Finns’ willingness to make personal choices aimed at slowing down climate change has declined since last year. The greatest reluctance is shown when it comes to cutting frequent flying and to transferring to public transport.
The readiness to take action has declined almost in all areas: fewer people are willing to recycle, to sort out waste, to reduce consumption, to buy energy-saving products, or to reduce the use of a private car.
However, these changes fall within the margin of error of the study, which is some three percentage points either way.
Instead, the willingness to pay for energy has declined even more than that. The readiness to reduce flying has declined most (seven %-points), while the willingness to leave the car at home and to use public transport when possible has dropped almost as much (6 %-points).
”Flying is strongly related to the feeling of freedom, to experiencing something new, and to our entire way of life, as well as to some partly subconscious needs. If one cannot fly, one feels chained - somewhat in the same way as in the Soviet Union where one was not free to travel”, explains professor Peter Lund from the Helsinki University of Technology.
The question of whether the Finns would be willing to pay for energy considerably more than at present met with the greatest inertia (just 24 % of respondents said they would be).
Instead, as many as 45 % of the Finns would be willing to pay a so-called climate tax.
”Surprisingly, people are ready to pay a climate tax. It is a positive signal. Maybe it would be an easy, simple, and even equal way of dealing with climate change so that one would not have to do much himself or herself”, Lund commented.
One of the reasons for the decline in the willingness to take action could be the fact that the Finns no longer regard climate change as such a great threat.
As many as 77 % of the respondents regard climate change as a rather great threat or a major threat (82 % in 2008). A total of 18 % of the Finns think that climate change is no particularly great threat (14 % in 2008).
”When climate change is slow, people get used to it, becoming apathetic. Moreover, when the recession affects them personally, climate change tends to be overlooked or take a secondary position”, Lund assumes.
The Finns’ attitude toward the expansion of nuclear power apparently depends on how the question is put.
When asked directly whether or not Finland should build a sixth nuclear reactor, at least some 55 % of the respondents are in favour of the plan to a certain extent.
The figure has not changed since last year.
When asked which energy source should be utilised more, the respondents hesitate between the alternatives, and eventually the proportion of those who are in favour of the expansion of nuclear power is only 47 %.
The highest support for nuclear power is achieved when asked how many - if any - new nuclear reactors should get a building permit.
A total of 65 % of the respondents would grant a permit to at least one reactor. Some 30 % are in favour of three reactors, while 8% support two and 27 % would regard only one new facility as necessary.
Only 26 % of all respondents would not grant any new construction permits.
Lund explains the phenomenon by the fact that the replies depend on the point of comparison.
”When one is asked only about nuclear power, ideological divisions show up”, Lund notes.
”The same is apparent in the popular support of political parties. When various alternatives are introduced, idealogical views are no longer so important”, Lund added.
The highest number of those respondents who support the expansion of nuclear power can be found among the members of the National Coalition party (74 %), while the lowest backing (29 %) is found among the members of the Green League, and those of the Left Alliance (34 %).
Suomen Gallup interviewed a total of 1,002 Finns aged 15 years and above via the telephone between April 1st and 9th.
The survey concerned only the mainland of Finland, excluding the Åland Islands.
The margin of error of the study is some three percentage points either way.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Poll: Most Finns willing to bear costs of fighting climate change (22.2.2008)
Electric utilities make preparations for sixth nuclear reactor (29.3.2007)
New mission for Jorma Ollila: fighting climate change (30.1.2007)
Finnish greenhouse gas emissions continue to exceed Kyoto limits (17.1.2006)
Climate change: more mild and rainy winters in store for Finland (22.2.2005)
Researcher: Finns ready for decisions on climate policy (12.3.2009)
New documentary highlights role of personal lifestyle choices in fighting climate change (26.8.2008)