Exclusive study for Invisible Nature: How Are Romanians Reacting Towards Climate Change
In this article, we focus on attitudes towards the environment. Namely, we are interested in finding out how Romanians perceive climate change (global warming) and its impact on their lives and what actions they practice in terms of social and environmental responsibility. Our research was conducted in partnership with Invisible Nature. Their mission is to offer businesses, authorities and NGOs impactful solutions that lead to system-level changes for a sustainable future. The study was made through an online survey on our platform www.questia.ro covering 502 respondents, with a plus or minus 4% margin of error. The survey was active between 3 and 5 of October 2017. Our findings are presented below.
The recent research Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment shows that the top problems for Europeans are air pollution, waste issues, the depletion of natural resources and the impact of chemicals used in everyday life on people's health (2014, p.4). Usually, environmental concerns and behaviors are related to country-specific variables such as environmental regulations, the socio-economic context, the poor management of the Cohesion funds, issues of corruption as well as Romanian population’s concerns on some environmental issues over others.
Climate change has numerous observable effects on the environment: glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. Moreover, some of the effects that scientists have predicted in the past are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. Above all, scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. In this sense, The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Recently, the Trump administration sent a formal communication to the United Nations that the country would leave the accord as soon as possible. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, no country was supposed to be able to give notice of its departure until November 4, 2019, which is three years to the day after the treaty entered force. This raises numerous questions and concerns throughout the world.
With this in mind, in this article, we take a closer look at what respondents consider the cause of climate change, how they are affected by it, as well as what activities they engage in for protecting the environment both in their homes and at their workplace.
Generally, respondents are highly concerned about climate change, roughly 75% say they are worried about this issue. More interestingly, more than 60% say that they will be personally affected by such changes in the climate. This shows that respondents relate to this issue in a personal and not an abstract manner, acknowledging its implications.
Regarding the causes of climate change, the majority of respondents say that they are caused mostly by human activities. Only a few think natural factors are the main cause of climate change or another factor. Most climate scientists agree that the main cause of global warming is the human expansion of the "greenhouse effect", warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. In this sense, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.
When it comes to activities that respondents engage in in their personal lives that positively affect the environment, the top relates to saving energy (63.3%), not wasting food (59.8%), saving water (55.4%) and buying local and seasonal food every time one has the opportunity (54.6%). Activities such as donating for social or environmental factors, refusing plastic shopping bags and volunteering are made to a lesser degree. The findings are similar to the trends of the overall population in Romania. In a previous survey on environmental issues, we showed that almost 60% consider that they can play a role in protecting the environment in Romania, while at the EU level, 43% had the same approach.
When it comes to activities that respondents engage in in their professional lives that positively affect the environment, saving energy (53.6%), water (51.8%) and using public transport, cycling or walking to get to the office (51.6%) are the most frequent activities respondents do. Sharing cars or proposing ideas/solutions to reduce the social or environmental impact are the least frequent ones. This shows that environmental friendly activities like saving water and energy are the most common ones both at the personal and professional level. In a previous study, we showed that cutting down energy consumption (in 77.1% of cases), cutting down water consumption (68%) and separating most waste for recycling (52.1%) are top actions that respondents engage in. Saving energy and water are the most readily types of activities and don’t employ a major behavioral change.
Another interesting insight is that generally, respondents seem to agree to the fact that employers don’t offer information on how to have a responsible approach socially and environmentally at work. This is backed up by 61.6% of respondents. Thus, there is a gap to be filled by employers who should increase their sustainability efforts and, at the same time, engage their employees on social and environmental aspects that are strategic for the business.