Will the true voice of climate change please stand up?

By December 9, 2019 January 10th, 2020 Research Publications

Of late, a culture of awareness has been growing throughout the world that aims to encourage quality-focused actions in support of key causes. If you have been keeping up with the news, you’re likely to be familiar with Greta Thunberg. For those unfamiliar with Greta, she is a teenage environmental activist hailing from Sweden, who catapulted herself to the forefront of climate-related debates and discussions in recent months thanks to her campaign and solo protest that eventually led to millions of people joining a worldwide, youth-led climate strike. She also became highly sensationalized when she delivered an impassioned speech at the UN Climate Summit, accusing world leaders of stealing her dreams.

But let’s get real for a second. Most of us have felt the generational gap she has highlighted, as well as the grandiose expectations, false hopes, and perceived unfairness that has emerged as a result of that disconnect. The difference between us and the leaders of the world seems to stem from a different understanding of the world, of what it means to live today, and of what tomorrow can and will look like.

DID WE MUCK UP THE PLANET?

The short answer is, yes. Through widespread protests, activists have been denouncing the destructive effect of consumer culture that has been effectively killing the Earth. While such protests, and indeed protests in general, are a rarity in Singapore, we managed to jump onto Greta’s climate bandwagon with the help of a non-profit organisation who hosted a rally at Hong Lim Park a day after the Global Climate Strike, which drew a reported turn-out of more than 1,700 participants. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also put forth Singapore’s ambition in mitigating climate change when he was present at the Climate Action Summit in September. He made further emphasis of the ‘grave’ situation in tackling challenges of unprecedented climate shifts, with rapidly rising sea levels being one of them. #IslandProblems

Recently, Black Dot Research carried out a survey on the thoughts and feelings of humans concerning climate change and its effects. The study compiled answers from 100 respondents in Singapore and discovered significant differences in attitudes across the island.

Some of the highlights include:

  • For starters, 98% of Singaporeans know about climate change.
  • 93% agree that climate is an important issue to discuss.
  • More than half of them picked Global Warming (20%), Climate Change (18%), and Pollution (11%) as their top 3 concerns for the environment.
  • 79% still think there’s a fighting chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change although it would need drastic changes soon in how we tackle it.
  • 67% have taken active steps to be environmentally-friendly – more than half of them recycle waste and consume less energy on a regular basis.
  • While 78% agree Global Warming has been a massive conversation in perpetual news cycles – through international pressure (44%), policy changes (42%) and increased societal engagement (42%); there is also conscious discussion on several platforms regarding climate change denial (31%).
  • 35% said that the biggest reason to be actively involved in fighting climate change was to protect the Earth, while a mere 9% stated that it was to save the animals affected by climate change.
  • 34% of Singaporeans feel it isn’t absolutely vital for them to make any adequate efforts simply because they believe there’s minimum impact from micro efforts
  • 33% of Singaporeans think our government should hold central responsibility in tackling climate change issues.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONSUMPTION CONTINUES TO SOAR

The Singapore government is beginning to take the lead in climate change, although their involvement thus far has been disputed, mostly on social media platforms. With 81% of our respondents saying they have increased their awareness on environmental matters through the social media – where concerted efforts have been made to drive home the point that climate change is indeed, very real.

The landscape of content consumption in Singapore will continue to evolve as long as social media plays the central role in interactions among people. This can be highly instrumental in influencing popular attitudes when it comes to many issues, including the state of Earth’s climate.

While it makes complete sense for us to easily obtain news from media outlets in a digitally infused era – whether from other ‘lay’ users or professional news outlets with a presence on social platforms, there is an obvious lack of conversation amongst us humans as we lay out the statistics through our data.

CAN SCHOOLS BE A BREEDING GROUND TO LEARN ABOUT THIS GLOBAL CRISIS?

According to our respondents, they seem to think that schools only own 26% of that responsibility in disseminating information on climate change. But before we put up the blame on educators for not doing enough, it’s important to understand the sort of pressures they face from a packed curriculum – and further pressure in making sure students excel in their studies.

With a topic like climate change, taking into consideration the breadth and controversy of the content, it’s a massive challenge to teach something with a deep complexity. Despite the difficulty, climate change emerges as a terrific ground for students to explore this global emergency through scientific, civic and cultural lenses.

TO TRUST OR TO NOT TRUST?

While technology has been seen as a boon, thanks to its ability to connect people, the real irony is that we’re instead currently experiencing a climate of distrust. We mindlessly consume content from any source that score the ability to bait us with catchy headlines despite rising concerns about ‘fake news’. There is no common ground established for us to come to a consensus as everyone may have a different opinion based on the same set of facts. More than 80% of respondents agree that climate realists such as climate scientists and environmental groups hold real power to truth when they voice out their worries about melting ice caps, despite not having a more powerful platform to engage the society with their voices.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT OUR ANIMALS?

Let’s hold off our thoughts about world for a moment. We wanted to find out what’s the biggest fighting cause that will inspire our panel to actively involve themselves in this climate war, and the results were… interesting.

More than half our respondents feel inclined to save the Earth (35%), not just for them but for their children and all future generations (26%) to come. Protecting the planet is surely a tender thought, but are we also willing to protect everything on Earth as well? Only a mere 5% cited the loss of endangered species as one of their top environmental concerns.

Do you recall videos of otters popping up on your Facebook timeline, as you pause to watch them frolick across pathways in Bishan Park? Probably so, since it’s hard to scroll past something that adorable. Unfortunately, the cruelty against them exists through humans hunting for their fur in China, which effectively shortlists the otter as a critically endangered species.

Our grandkids may not be able witness the same animals you did, so let’s try to save some cool things for them.

100 YEARS TO DEAL WITH CLIMATE CHANGE?

In an ideal world, everyone embraces fundamental change in order to combat climate change, achieves zero net carbon dioxide emissions, and every other goal we have set to escape the death of our planet. But in a metaphorical sense, how are we going to plant a forest if we can’t channel our efforts into a single tree? That’s our cue to start taking action. Our civil society and young people are demanding change – what do we do?

While we’re being real, we need to accept that changing consumer habits alone won’t solve the problem. We need to recognise the magnitude of political change that needs to be initiated by government bodies which includes local authorities and global organisations that provide environmental protection. At least 56% of the respondents seemingly agree with this sentiment. Of course, we have our individual responsibility to dutifully shrink our carbon footprint. But realistically, there’s a way to slow down climate warming: stop relying fossil fuels!

THE CURRENT DOOM AND GLOOM NARRATIVE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

We can’t speak for everyone but most of us will agree that we’re beginning to experience the consequences of climate change as a result of our wasteful ways on the world. It’s clear as day that this state that we currently live in didn’t happen overnight, but it is never too late to work together to reverse the effects. We can make a difference by acting quickly to stop global carbon emissions from climbing?

Some food for thought. Hope you’re hungry.

Let us know if you have any tidbits to share at feedback@blackdotresearch.sg. We would love a byte!

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