The pandemic has had a limited impact on environmental lifestyle

Joel Rogers de WaalAcademic Director, YouGov
December 01, 2021, 3:43 PM GMT+0

As the early stages of the pandemic forced a near total transformation of daily life around the world, some hoped it might also encourage people to make some of the more dramatic changes to personal lifestyle that are deemed necessary to tackle climate change.

According to new research from the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, however, the long-term, environmental impact of the pandemic is likely to be limited, at least from the perspective of lifestyle change among the general public.

In terms of overall sentiment, something the research makes clear is that a huge, global consensus now agrees with the central premise of climate change: decisive majorities in every country surveyed believe both that the phenomenon is real and that human activity is responsible, either wholly or partly. In many publics, this figure reaches over 80%. In some, such as Greece, Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria, it seems almost unanimous, with scores over or nearer to 90%.

On the other hand, two years of polling on a range of lifestyle measures suggest that a majority of people are reluctant to make significant changes to their pre-pandemic life, which are generally recognised as being fundamental to the environmental cause. Respondents were asked to think about a possible time in the future when the pandemic is over, and to say whether they expected to do more or less of several activities related to travel, compared with how they lived before the crisis started. These included travelling by car and aeroplane, and going abroad for holidays.

With some notable consistency, majorities in nearly every country said they expect either to make no change or even to increase how much they did of each– a trend that has also remained broadly unchanged for two years. In numerous countries, from France and Sweden to Canada and Japan, the percentage who expected to drive less was in single digits. The portion expecting to do less flying or holidaying abroad was generally higher, but mostly limited to around a third or under, with the interesting exception of China, where nearly half expect to take fewer international holidays.

In other words, climate change belief has become something of a universal orthodoxy. But we still face a substantial “values-action gap” on a global scale when it comes to the new environmentalism.

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For more about the Globalism Project, see here.

Image: Getty

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YouGov-Cambridge Centre

The YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research is a joint research centre run by YouGov and the Cambridge University POLIS Department, which promotes in-depth collaboration between pollsters and academic experts. Alongside research and events, the Centre contributes to teaching at the University and provides several postgraduate scholarships each year.
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