Most Norwegians think they have a responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions
But there is no consensus as to what should actually be done.
The Oslo-based CICERO Center for International Climate Research has released a new report on Norwegians' attitudes towards climate change and climate action.
The report is based on responses collected by the Kantar polling company from roughly 4,000 respondents drawn from a representative sample. The same survey was conducted in 2018.
Most Norwegians said they believed that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human activity. In 2018, 4.4 per cent responded that the statement "climate change is happening" was a "fairly bad" or "very bad" description of the current situation. In 2019 the percentage of doubters dropped to 2.4 per cent.
At the same time, 69.4 per cent said that human activity is affecting the climate.
Most agreed that they themselves had a responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 67.4 per cent responded that this statement reflects their opinion to a good or very good extent.
The majority also agreed that Norway as a country, and its politicians and businesses have a responsibility to cut emissions.
There are however big differences between the measures that were supported among different population groups.
Younger people are, on average, more willing to make changes and to support climate policy compared to those aged 45 years and up.
The survey was conducted in May 2019.
Many are negative towards increasing fees and tolls
CICERO asked people what they thought about various climate policy issues.
A clear majority were negative towards raising the price of fossil fuels, with 52.7 per cent opposed and 22.8 per cent in favour. That’s an increase compared to the last survey in the numbers of people who are either for or against this measure.
There’s a similar distribution regarding the question of road tolls. A total of 55 per cent were negative towards tolls, while less than 20 per cent were positive. The majority were also negative towards a programme in which electric cars are given subsidies.
Support for developing more wind power on land has declined sharply since last year. Nevertheless, just over half believed that Norway should develop more wind power. Less than 25 per cent were opposed. The support for building offshore wind power was higher — and was at 70 per cent.
When asked whether Norway should reduce oil production, the answers were more varied. Thirty per cent were uncertain, 30 per cent agreed, while 40 per cent were opposed.
Many, however, agreed that pedestrians and cyclists should be given priority in urban centres rather than private motorists. The proportion that fully or partially supported this statement has risen from 50.9 per cent in 2018 to 57.4 per cent in 2019.
Petrol and diesel cars dominate as transport
Most people said they mainly relied on gasoline or diesel cars to commute back and forth to work or school both in 2018 and 2019, about 2 out of 5 respondents. But fewer people named this as the most important means of transport this year than in the previous survey.
“The use of petrol and diesel cars is lower in Oslo and Akershus than in the rest of the country. Young people and people with higher education drive less petrol and diesel cars than other groups,” the researchers write.
Around 10 per cent used hybrid or electric cars, a proportion that has increased somewhat from the previous year.
One in 5 most often use public transport, a proportion that has been fairly stable since the previous survey.
Want to throw away less food
A clear majority said they felt they had a responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Only 8.3 per cent disagreed with this statement. Yet there is a big difference between the changes people were willing to make.
The majority were positive towards reducing food waste. There are also quite a few people who would consider reducing the amount of red meat in their diet. Forty per cent answered yes to this question while about 54 per cent were negative towards reducing red meat consumption.
Far fewer were willing to fly less. Almost 29 per cent were willing to cut down on flying, while 61.5 per cent said they were not willing. The majority also said they would not be willing to reduce their use of gasoline and diesel cars. These answers are probably influenced by the kinds of transport alternatives that are available where people live.
Those who already eat the least red meat and use cars the least were also the people who were the most willing to make additional reductions.
Peer pressure regarding airplane travel
CICERO also asked respondents about the opinions of people in their social circle.
The proportion who thought that “most people I know believe we should reduce the number of flights we take” has increased. In 2018, 23.6 per cent answered yes to this question, while IN 2019 it was 28.8 per cent.
This may mean that more people are talking about wanting to fly less. The researchers behind the report write that it is too early to say whether this is a trend. But it may be because the question of flying has been turned into a moral issue by the term "flight shame”.
Younger people most concerned about climate
Throughout the study, researchers found that people between the ages of 18 and 29 were most concerned about climate change and most engaged with the climate issue. Younger individuals were also most positive towards actions to curb climate change and to making changes themselves. Their commitment seems to have increased from the previous year. In part, this was also true of people between the ages of 30 and 44.
For example, 44 per cent of those under 30 wanted to see an increase the price of fossil fuels. This percentage has increased from 2018. In comparison, 15 per cent of respondents over 45 felt the same way.
The majority of young people were also willing to cut consumption of red meat, while two-thirds of individuals over 60 were negative towards this action. Almost half of young respondents said that people in their social circle believed that individuals should reduce their air travel and consumption of red meat.
Forty-eight per cent of young people were even willing to fly less. At the same time, Norwegians under 30 are the individuals who fly the most on long journeys to countries outside Europe.
Climate commitment drops as income increases
Women were more willing to support climate policies than men and were more concerned overall.
This was also true, to a greater extent, of people with higher educational levels compared to those with less education.
At the same time, those who earned the most (more than NOK 800,000, or about EUR 80,000) were less concerned about the climate and were less willing to change their behaviour and support climate policies than people who earned less. For example, people with the highest incomes were the most negative towards increasing the price of fossil fuels.
People in Oslo and Akershus, the most urban parts of the country, were more concerned about climate issues and more positive towards climate measures than in other parts of the country.
Party selection gives clear indications
The researchers also asked which political party survey participants voted for in the previous parliamentary elections. The study showed that there were clear links between party choices and attitudes towards climate measures.
Those who voted for the Progress Party, a libertarian, right-wing party, were most negative towards measures to reduce emissions and least concerned about climate. Next were voters who supported Høyre, the Conservative Party, which is a liberal-conservative party currently in power.
Those who voted for the Green Party, the Socialist Left Party, the Red (a socialist party) and Left, a liberal party, and also the Labour Party, Norway’s largest political party, were most concerned and willing to act. Those who voted for the Centre Party and the Christian People's Party had positions similar to the voters who supported the Conservative Party, but were a little more concerned about the climate. When it came to energy policy, the picture was more varied, the researchers write.
Room for leadership
The researchers say in sum that Norwegians appear to want something to be done to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it's not entirely clear how they would like to see the cuts made.
“The figures point to the fact that there is a great room for leadership, at all levels,” the researchers write.
They also observe that social norms play a clear role in what people do.
“Each one of us has a role in shaping these social norms,” the researchers say.
Folk og klima: Nordmenns holdninger til klimaendringer, klimapolitikk og eget ansvar. (People and climate: Norwegians' attitudes to climate change, climate policy and their own responsibility, in Norwegian) CICERO, December 20, 2019.