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South Africans may not be in tune with the reality of climate change: survey

25 January 2022 - 11:45
Nearly 60% of South Africans who took part in a climate reality barometer survey are optimistic the country will avert a climate crisis in their lifetime. File photo.
Nearly 60% of South Africans who took part in a climate reality barometer survey are optimistic the country will avert a climate crisis in their lifetime. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Nearly 60% of South Africans who took part in a climate reality barometer survey are optimistic the country will avert a climate crisis in their lifetime.

Epson — a global technology company, which conducted the survey among 1,000 South Africans — believes the findings reveal “a potentially damaging gap between perceptions of climate change and people’s understanding of its catastrophic effects”.

The survey found 27.9% of South Africans believe science and technology can solve the climate change problem.

Just more than 28% feel SA can move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and that people are more aware of climate dangers than they were historically.

Those who are pessimistic (17.4%) and believe we won’t avoid a climate disaster in their lifetime cite a lack of awareness of the dangers of climate change (34.3%), a lack of government action (27.4%) and a slow switch to renewable sources of energy, such as wind turbines (24%), as reasons for their poor outlook.

Respondents were also asked what they believe the top three impacts of climate change to be. Most identified higher temperatures (81.2%), more wildfires, and more extreme weather (both 79%).

The goal of the barometer is to raise greater public awareness of the effects of climate change, to influence transformative business decisions and to better inform policymakers.

“The barometer’s findings highlight the significant difference between people’s perceptions and the reality of the climate emergency we’re facing in SA, which reports say have increased the frequency of extreme temperature events in Southern Africa, with temperatures spiking twice as fast as the global average,” said Timothy Thomas, country manager at Epson SA.

When asked who should be primarily responsible for tackling the climate emergency, 18% of respondents say they are personally “the most responsible”, while almost a third believe we are collectively responsible.

“There is early evidence to suggest that South Africans are accepting personal and collective responsibility to mitigate the effects of climate change, with the top three actions including reducing plastic use (63.3%), improving recycling habits (62.1%) and walking or cycling more often (60.3%),” according to the survey.

Many, however, believe the responsibility lies elsewhere: nearly a third say governments should be most responsible for tackling the climate emergency, while 17.5% say big and small business should.

“The Epson Climate Reality Barometer and its discovery of a climate reality deficit shows that awareness, coupled with action, will be critical to tackling the climate emergency we’re facing,” said Thomas.

TimesLIVE


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