Griffith researchers co-author pioneering climate change report for France

The work of three Griffith University academics will be delivered to France’s federal government, with a new report — the first of its kind to be conducted there — bringing fresh insights into public perceptions of climate change in the country.

Griffith Business School researchers Dr Andreas Chai and Dr Rob Hales, along with Associate Professor Graham Bradley of the School of Applied Psychology, worked as co-authors on the report, which is based on the results of a national survey of 3480 people undertaken between June 5 and July 17, 2017.

Dr Andreas Chai

The report’s writers, led by Associate Professor Zakaria Babutsidze of SKEMA Business School at the Université Côte d’Azur, also include academics from the French Observatory of Economic Conditions (OFCE), Michigan State University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

The team was collectively awarded a €75,000 (about $121,400) grant by French authorities to conduct the survey of attitudes towards climate change, and its results will be sent to the upper levels of the French federal government, including the office of President Emmanuel Macron.

The researchers found a large majority of respondents — 85 per cent — believe climate change is happening, with only one in 50 people (1.9 per cent) indicating they are not convinced of it.

The same majority expressed concern about the impact of climate change, with the level of concern and perceptions of associated risks generally rising with education levels.

“Our survey results suggest there is generally a high acceptance of the reality of climate change among the French populace, and that humans are likely responsible for it,” Dr Chai said.

Associate Professor Graham Bradley

“However, despite the high levels of concern about the issue expressed by the respondents, our results indicate that factual knowledge about climate change is generally low to moderate.”

Educated respondents aged between 35 and 44 generally had a high level of knowledge, as did students, respondents who are employed full-time, and those who have previously experienced environmental changes, circumstances or events possibly connected to climate change.

More broadly, the general lack of knowledge about climate change — and what to do about it — was one of the most frequently cited barriers to undertaking action against the phenomenon, along with the perception that required actions are too expensive, and a belief that climate change is too big a problem to be solved on an individual level.

Additionally, only one in eight respondents (12.75 per cent) believed that individuals and their families should be responsible for taking climate change action, with the remainder attributing primary responsibility to private industries/companies, the international community or national governments.

Dr Rob Hales

In analysing their results, the report’s authors put forth four major conclusions/recommendations for improving the French public’s responses to climate change over the coming the years.

First, they suggest the development of a National Action Plan for climate change communication, ensuring “that the response to climate change issues across all levels of government takes place in a coordinated manner and is sensitive to differences in perceptions of climate change across various demographic groups and regions of France”.

Secondly, the report recommends the development of an ongoing monitoring system to track the impact of extreme weather events on public perceptions, especially as such events are predicated to become more frequent in future decades.

Third, the researchers recommend addressing the respondents’ expressed barriers to action through the development of another National Action Plan.

The report’s final recommendation is that France must capitalise on the existing levels of concern among the country’s public in order to address climate change, without assuming unconditional support.

“While the study suggests French citizens are concerned about climate change, it is nonetheless not a ‘top-of-mind’ issue,” Dr Chai said.

“So, policymakers have their work cut out for them in ensuring the issue remains in the public consciousness, in order to continue to build support for often-expensive adaptation efforts.”

Read the researchers’ full report here.