The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change raised plenty of red flags on the future of our planet. The climate crisis, it said, has unequivocally been caused by human activities and the harsh weather patterns that many parts of the world are witnessing today could get even worse down the line.
Now, results from a new detailed survey report, released on 17 August, on public attitude towards tipping points, planetary stewardship and economic and societal transformations show that across the world’s largest economies, 73% of people believe Earth is approaching potentially abrupt or irreversible tipping points because of human action.
The report, titled ‘The Global Commons Survey: Attitudes to planetary stewardship and transformation among G20 countries’, is based on a global survey commissioned by the Global Commons Alliance, a collaboration of more than 70 of the world’s leading institutions from the fields of science, philanthropy, business and nonprofits, which focuses on science-based action to protect the planet.
The survey was carried out by the market research firm Ipsos MORI in April-May, 2021, before the release of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. It was conducted across G20 countries with 19,735 people surveyed online (including an additional survey in Sweden). In each country, the data is weighted to be representative of the national population. The G20 nations included Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, (plus the European Union).
Supported by Earth4All, a new initiative exploring pathways and new economic systems to stabilize Earth and deliver prosperity to the majority, and FAIRTRANS, a new Swedish research programme exploring sustainable transformation of societies, the survey defined global commons as life on Earth, fresh air and climate, oceans, forests, ice sheets, freshwater, and other processes that keep Earth stable and resilient. For simplicity, the terms “nature” and “global commons” were used interchangeably. At least 58% of the people are extremely or very worried about the state of the ‘global commons’, according to the findings.
In India, 77% of people support a move towards a well-being economy, which prioritises human well-being and sustainable use of natural resources, rather than a singular focus on economic growth. A bulk of the respondents in India (79%) also believe that the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique chance to transform societies to become more resilient to shocks. In a more encouraging finding, 90% of people in India are willing to do more to protect nature and the climate, with 70% of the respondents worried about the state of nature today.
Some of the other findings show that this willingness resonates almost across the world, with 83% of people willing to do more to become better “planetary stewards” and protect and regenerate the global commons.
The report also explains that people in developing economies showed greater willingness to do more to protect nature and climate than those in advanced economies: Indonesia (95%), South Africa (94%), China (93%), Mexico (93%), Brazil (91%), compared with Japan (61%), Germany (70%), and the United States (74%).
“The world is not sleepwalking towards catastrophe. People know we are taking colossal risks, they want to do more and they want their governments to do more,” said Owen Gaffney, the lead author of the report and director of communications for the Global Commons Alliance.
“We were surprised by the difference in attitudes between people living in wealthy economies and those living in emerging economies,” Gaffney explains in an official news release. “I can speculate that the destruction of the global commons is more visible and tangible for people living in countries with huge ecosystems like the rainforests of Brazil and Indonesia right on their doorstep. Global trade separates people in wealthy economies from the impacts. But more work is needed to really work out why.” said Gaffney, who added that these findings should provide G20 leaders with the confidence to move faster to implement more ambitious policies to protect and regenerate our ‘global commons’.