Het veranderende klimaat is een van de belangrijkste thema's internationaal. Zo krijgt Heerlenaar Frans Timmermans de leiding over het klimaatbeleid in de Europese Commissie. De redactie van RadarLimburg peilde hier en daar de stand van zaken in eigen provincie. En zie, Hans Heijnen, vertrekkend directeur van de Natuur en Miliefederatie Limburg, heeft het niet zo op windmolens en zonnepanelen, en: "Kernenergie is een optie."


Het klimaat verandert snel. Hebben we kernenergie nodig om onze klimaatdoelen te halen? En is Maastricht Aachen Airport in 2024 klimaatneutraal? In ieder geval moeten we accepteren dat het risico op een wereldwijde infectieziekte groter wordt.


Jaarlijks komen er twintig nieuwe soorten insecten naar Nederland door klimaatverandering. Dat gaat vanzelf. Je kunt ook wat doen. Je bespaart 910 kiloton CO2 wanneer je elk jaar drie kledingstukken minder koopt. En 1500kg CO2 per jaar wanneer je tien zonnepanelen op het dak van je huis legt.


In de jaren tussen 1981-2010 was de gemiddelde jaartemperatuur 10,1°C. Nu ligt die ruim een halve graad hoger. De industrie is voor een belangrijk deel verantwoordelijk voor de temperatuurstijging, in Limburg is dat met name Chemelot.


Waar is plaats voor een miljoen bomen? En waar komen windmolens en zonnepanelen? De voorzitter van de Limburgse Milieufederatie wil ze niet en is niet vies van kernenergie. Redacteur Laura daagt zichzelf uit een week lang zo klimaatneutraal mogelijk te eten.


Enig idee hoeveel diersoorten zijn uitgestorven sinds 1970?

Many worries, little action
Many worries, little action
Bobby Duffy Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute, King's College London
The Conversation
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Wat weten we eigenlijk precies over klimaatverandering? Hoeveel draagt vliegen bijvoorbeeld bij aan de uitstoot van CO2? De Britten gokken gemiddeld op 20 procent van de totale uitstoot, maar het is maar 2 procent. "Het is naief om te denken dat mensen door ze te bombarderen met feiten anders zullen gaan leven. Maakt niet uit hoe buitengewoon of angstaanjagend de feiten ook mogen zijn", betoogt Bobby Duffy, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute, King's College London



We humans have a natural tendency to focus on negative stories. We tend to assume things are worse than they really are, and going downhill fast. We forget how bad things were in the past and how far we’ve come.

In reality, the world is often better — and getting better — than we think, something I wrote about in my book, The Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything.

Murder rates, deaths from terrorism and extreme poverty are all down. Life expectancy, health and education levels are up. And yet, there is one vital, urgent exception to this rule: we still don’t realise how badly wrong our global climate and environment have gone.

A new survey of Britons which tested understanding of some key facts about the enivironment reveals the extent of environmental misperceptions. Rather than asking people what they thought might happen, this study instead focused on assessing knowledge of the world as it is right now.

One question, for example, was how many of the past 22 years have been the hottest on record?

The answer is 20, but the average guess was just 12. And one in five people guessed five or fewer.

Overestmating the facts

Britons also overestimated some facts, such as how much air travel contributes to greenhouse guesses. The average guess was that 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from air travel, when in fact it only accounts for around 2%. Respondents also assumed that air travel’s emissions are about equal to that of all other forms of transport put together, when in reality, the latter contributes about ten times as much as flights. This is due to the relative rarity of flights compared to other forms of transport.

Yet despite aviation’s relatively limited contribution to emissions overall, one of the most effective environmental actions we can take as individuals is to fly less. A study by Swedish academics puts skipping one transatlantic flight as the third most effective action we can take, only behind the much more extreme options of having one fewer child and living entirely car free. Curiously, only 25% of the British public pick out skipping a flight as one of the top three. Instead, 52% of people guessed that recycling was one of the best things we can do to reduce our emissions - when it’s seventh in this list of nine actions.

Is there any point in recycling?

And that’s not our only misperception about recycling: we massively underestimate the problem of plastic waste. Britons guessed that about half of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste humans have produced globally is still out there in the environment (in our oceans, our soil, our water, even inside our bodies, when in reality it’s an incredible 79%.

And how much plastic waste has been recycled? Respondents guessed about a quarter, when in reality its only 9% (Read: Is there any point in recycling?)

We also don’t realise just how extreme the loss of animal species over the past decade has been. Only a third correctly identify that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles in the world have declined by 60% since 1970.

Anxiety and other people

But our lack of understanding of the scale of the issues doesn’t mean we’re not worried. In fact, recent polling of Britons by Ipsos MORI measured record-breaking levels of concern. Our new polling also shows that two-thirds of Britons reject Donald Trump’s assertion that global warming is an “expensive hoax” – and instead two-thirds agree with the recent UK Parliament declaration that we are facing a “climate change emergency, with the threat of irreversible destruction of our environment in our lifetime”.

Our largest misconceptions seem to be around what other people think, a phenomenon that academics call our pluralistic ignorance: our perception is that other people’s attitudes are the problem.

Despite record levels of public concern, 73% believe that other people are not worried enough — while only 16% say we ourselves are not worried enough. Half of us say that other people think it’s too late to do anything to prevent a climate change emergency, but only one in five of us admits to having given up hope. This misunderstanding of the norm is serious, as it affects our own sense of efficacy: if others aren’t bothered, what’s the point in us acting?

We don't know enough

Its naive to think that bombarding people with facts will incite them to act, no matter how extraordinary or terrifying these facts may be. But its equally as naive to think that we can figure out exactly the right emotional buttons to push: we just don’t know enough yet about how fear, hope and a sense of efficacy interact in motivating action in different people.

Nevertheless, a little more understanding of the scale of the issues and how we individually can act most effectively couldn’t hurt. And perhaps most crucially, we need to remember that we are not alone in our concern. Anxiety about climate change has become the norm, and this is a fact that we can harness and put to use.


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