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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

More than half of UAE residents blame climate change on human activity

Global YouGov survey puts spotlight on climate change as some still fail to acknowledge crisis exists
A study released last week found the Aletsch glacier, the largest in the Swiss Alps, could be wiped off the earth by the end of the century if action isn't taken to address climate change.AFP    

A strong majority of the global population believe humans have fuelled the current climate crisis, a study found.

With climate change firmly fixed in the public consciousness, a YouGov study of 30,000 people in 28 countries revealed that most respondents acknowledge the climate is changing, with human activity fully or partly to blame.

Of the 1,009 respondents in the UAE, 85 per cent recognised climate change as a real and salient problem. Fifty-two per cent said they believed human activity was the main cause of loss and degradation of the environment.

The majority of people in UAE acknowledge and take responsibility for climate change, but individuals are doing little to change...they are only paying lip service to it

Ivano Iannelli, Dubai Carbon

But six per cent of respondents in the Emirates said people played no part in the climate crisis, while two per cent failed to acknowledge a crisis at all. These figures are the same or higher in eight other countries, including the US, where six per cent of respondents said the climate had not changed at all.

“Wavering attitudes towards climate change is an ongoing debate across the world,” Ivano Iannelli, chief executive at Dubai Carbon, a body that was set up in the emirate to promote the low carbon and green economies, told The National.

“To address climate change you need to take people out of their comfort zone.

“This survey may reveal the majority of people in the UAE acknowledge and take responsibility for climate change, but individuals are doing little to change...they are only paying lip service to it.”

Climate change campaigners held protests in Frankfurt last week, calling on residents to ditch their cars to boost the environment. EPA    

According to the survey, most of the 3,700 respondents in the Middle East were concerned about the effect climate change would have on their lives. In the UAE, 56 per cent of people indicated the worsening climate crisis would severely impede their daily life.

Conversely, only 16 per cent in Germany and 17 per cent in Great Britain were concerned about climate change having a great effect on their lives.

When all respondents were asked who they thought was responsible for reducing the impact of climate change on human population, the study showed a general divide between regions.

Many Asian and European respondents said their respective countries could be doing more to tackle climate change. Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed in Spain were unhappy with the efforts from local businesses and the government when it came to mitigating issues harming the environment. Respondents in Italy echoed the same sentiments.

The consensus in the UAE was more positive.

But Mr Iannelli pointed the finger at ordinary people.

“Change in legislation and practice comes only after public demand,” he said.

“Unless there is an element of action from us, the people, there will be no shift.

“Right now, we don’t feel the pressure but if this lax mentality continues, climate change will unfortunately be the type of battle fought at the eleventh hour, when the level of discomfort from its impact will be more intense.”

The UAE is ramping up efforts to deal with the problem.

The large-scale use of solar and clean energy technologies across the country is one example.

In 2015, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced Dubai’s aim to generate 75 per cent of its energy from clean sources by 2050 as part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Energy also launched the country’s National Climate Change Plan 2017–2050, which looks to manage greenhouse gas emissions while sustaining economic growth.

Speaking to The National about efforts being made locally, a spokeswoman for Emirates Environmental Group said they advocated a “circular economy”.

Delegates at the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting held at Emirates Place, Abu Dhabi, earlier this year. More than 1,000 government ministers, energy experts and business leaders attended the conference. Chris Whiteoak/The National    

“We want to ensure the waste of one industry is transformed into a raw material for another industry and thereby prevent or reduce the generation of waste.”

She called human action the best medicine for change and encouraged people to recycle as much as possible

“The way to prevent waste from entering our natural environment and damaging it is through an effective waste-management system," she said.

Updated: September 17, 2019 03:29 PM