Students took time to trial a new climate behaviour survey during lockdown and showed there’s a lot to learn by comparing Covid-19 with the Climate Emergency.

Over 160 students from schools in Bristol, Reading, Gloucestershire and London filled in a test run during lockdown of a new student-led ‘Climate Behaviour Survey’.   Their answers have been a terrific trial of the first draft of questions.  The results can be viewed here.

When asked in the test survey who they believe has the most power to change the course of climate change, more than 70% said our Government has that power.  55% thought that every individual has the power to influence change and 53% said ‘businesses and corporations’ as the third top response.   

Most compelling were some extremely thoughtful comparisons of the way we have responded to Covid-19 as an emergency and the Climate Emergency.  

“It’s human nature to only prioritise the things that are right in front of us, about to kill us, and most people can’t picture climate change like that.”  

‘Immediate, fast, instant’ were words used to describe Covid-19.  Young people thought that the world has acted so quickly on coronavirus because people see before their eyes the way their actions affect others.   Government action and awareness campaigns were thought to be far more in evidence for Covid-19. The Climate Emergency has not had this same immediacy and several students made strong points,   

“It’s not like you drive to school and someone immediately is hospitalised from the emissions. However people have been discussing global warming since before I was born, so it doesn’t seem / isn’t presented as as big of an issue.” 

“As we live in an individualistic society it is only when we are affected ourselves that enough action is taken to solve the emergency.” 

By far the most common response to the headline question was young people saying that climate change is still seen as a future issue and isn’t so ‘real’ or dangerous for us here in the UK,  

“Because you can see death tolls rising for COVID-19 whereas for climate change people keep thinking that it is not as dangerous because the death tolls are way lower.” 

“Well probably because climate change is still occurring and nothing has happened to anyone because of climate change but because with coronavirus people are dying they take more care of that.” 

Other young people made the point that the Climate Emergency is already a matter of life and death for many people in the world.  But those voices really don’t get heard by us wealthier countries and our governments.  Some students said we’re often so busy with our lives that we don’t look at what’s happening around us, 

“Because the countries that create the most carbon emissions are richer, these are the main countries that have the money to prevent climate change. However in these countries the effects of climate change are not as obvious compared to poorer countries in Africa or Southern Asia that are suffering with droughts and floods and are dying as a result of climate change.” 

“We, as humans, are very bad at conceptualising abstract issues such as ‘climate change’. Though changes to the environment have been happening all around us, in western countries it’s easy to overlook and explain away the effects. We have forgotten how to pay attention to the natural world, and in that, we have lost touch with it. People feel helpless to make significant changes on their own, and so they choose, consciously or unconsciously, to ignore how their actions can contribute. Climate change, though it requires a similar reckoning, has not been able to force people to figure out what’s most important and what they’re willing to give up.” 

Our thanks go to all the students who gave their time to complete this trial survey and for giving such clear insights about how we can change our behaviour when we see the absolute necessity.