The role of national affluence, carbon emissions, and democracy in Europeans' climate perceptions

Pasi Pohjolainen, Iida Kukkonen, Pekka Jokinen, Wouter Poortinga, Charles Adedayo Ogunbode, Gisela Böhm, Stephen Fisher, Resul Umit
(2021) Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research

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There are differences across Europe in elements of climate citizenship, including climate concern, perceived responsibility, and willingness to support and take climate action. This paper examines how individual-level climate perceptions correspond to a country’s contribution to climate change and its ability to develop climate policies. Data from the European Social Survey Round 8 (23 European countries, n = 44,387) was used to explore how national-level factors (affluence as per capita GDP, carbon emissions as per capita CO2 emissions, and democracy as electoral democracy index) are related to individual-level climate perceptions (climate concern, perceived climate responsibility, climate policy support, and personal climate action). The analysis shows that the studied individual-level perceptions are all linked, and that perceived climate responsibility is a factor that helps in understanding how individual-level climate views are connected. Further, national-level affluence and democracy are connected to stronger individual-level perceptions both directly and through mediating their connections. Our results suggest that achieving ambitious climate policy targets in Europe could benefit from focusing on the role of perceived climate responsibility in boosting policy support and action. Moreover, the connection between national-level (democratic and economic) factors and public climate perceptions emphasises the need to place climate policies in a wider context.