Poll: Climate Change Most Important Issue Facing Society Today

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56% of U.S. adults say climate change is the most important issue facing society today, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Concern about climate change is having an impact on mental health: “More than two-thirds of adults (68%) say that they have at least a little ‘eco-anxiety,’” says a press release on the topic, “defined as any anxiety or worry about climate change and its effects. These effects may be disproportionately having an impact on the country’s youngest adults; nearly half of those age 18-34 (47%) say the stress they feel about climate change affects their daily lives.”

That said, four in ten people have not made any changes in their behavior to reduce their contribution to climate change, the release notes. Seven in ten say they wish there were more they could do to combat climate change, but 51% of the adults surveyed say they don’t know where to start.

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The most common changes people have already made or are willing to make include: Reducing waste, including recycling; upgrading insulation in their homes; limiting utility use in their homes; using renewable energy sources; consuming less in general; or limiting air travel. The adults surveyed were less likely to say that they have changed or are willing to change transportation habits or their diet.

Among those who have made changes, 26% say that they have not done more because they don’t have the resources. Among those who have not made changes, 29% said nothing would motivate them to do so.

“The health, economic, political and environmental implications of climate change affect all of us. The tolls on our mental health are far reaching,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s CEO. “As climate change is created largely by human behavior, psychologists are continuing to study ways in which we can encourage people to make behavioral changes—both large and small—so that collectively we can help our planet.”

Two years ago, according to an article in The Guardian, the Carbon Majors Report found that 51% of global industrial emissions since 1988 could be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. 100 companies were the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron were identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988.

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