Climate is widely debated on all levels of society today. Now that the summer of 2018 is shaping up to be one for the record books, climate change is growing into a more tangible issue for everyone. Locations across the Northern Hemisphere have recorded their hottest temperatures ever this past weeks and 2018 seems to be another one of the hottest global years on record . Even though some of us might experience it as a hot and pleasant summer, in a global context the dangers and risks around forest fires, droughts, food security and natural disasters are rapidly increasing.
'Most' governments, companies and NGOs are luckily starting to take action-plans concerning their impact and how to move forward. In September 2015, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the UN, exchanging the vaguer Millennium Goals by 17 global goals for social, economic and environmental sustainability supported by more concrete sub-goals. In December the same year, the parties of the UNFCCC agreed on a binding climate deal – the Paris Agreement - to keep global warming well below 2-degrees with the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The question that arises is how the average citizen and consumer can become more aware of the enormous challenge that is human-induced climate change. It is an issue that is often seen as; complicated, abstract, long-term or outside of the individual responsibility.
The knowledge of Nordic consumers about the climate-related concepts above tells us something about the starting point when communicating climate issues. The key for consumer action is consumer knowledge, and as we see here, the road ahead is still long.
Most consumers are knowledgeable of Climate Change as a concept; especially the Finns. Furthermore, many consumers are also well-read about the impact of CO2-Emissions in all the Nordic countries. This is not surprising since these two terms have flourished in traditional- and social media for many years. They have also been awarded much space in the public debate. Norwegian consumers have the highest knowledge regarding the 2-degree target, although it is only slightly higher than in Finland and in Sweden. The Danes, however, are lagging behind in this one.
In 2017, between 7-17% of Nordic consumers still believed that mankind is only responsible for climate change to a very low extent. Data does show that younger generations and women generally believe more that mankind is responsible to a very high extent. The realisation that climate change is human-induced and therefore within our responsibility and capability for change, is essential in taking action.
When it comes to taking action, Nordic consumers show no significant difference when it comes to the importance of companies versus the government. An overage 60-70% of Nordic consumer state that companies and government actors are highly responsible to take climate action.
The focus areas that Nordic consumers point out are most important for these actors to focus on are the transition to renewable energy sources and providing subsidies for climate positive activities. Danish consumers really stand out when it comes to their concern for deforestation. Finns are more concerns with raising taxes on excessive/ unnecessary consumption and eating less meat, compared to the other Nordic countries.
The fact that Nordic consumers still put less responsibility on themselves than on the state and/or on companies shows that climate change is still an abstract concept. We know that consumers find it hard to fully realise the positive impact of individual actions. People are generally also more open to positive- rather than negative communication concerning climate change. They want to be rewarded for their good behaviour rather than being punished for their flaws. However, seeing is believing and this record year might spark more awareness and action on all levels of society