The CLAMER project organizes the first European poll ever about public perception of climate change in the marine environment

[this invited guest post is contributed by Kristian A. Teleki]

The lack of public engagement in the ocean acidification issue is evidenced by the recent polling of the EU funded Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research (CLAMER) project that is being managed by Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) based in the United Kingdom.

The CLAMER project undertook the first European poll ever about public perception of climate change in the marine environment. The purpose of the polling was to identify what the European public knows about, and how they perceive, climate change impacts in their seas in order to detect the main gaps in public awareness, and to highlight the issues that are considered important and/or urgent at a regional and Europe-wide level. The CLAMER poll surveyed a representative sample of European citizens (10,000 participants from 10 European countries – Spain, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Norway, Ireland, Netherlands, UK, France and Czech Republic) taking in account differences between coastal and inland areas. The full results can be found online but those relevant to ocean acidification are noted here:

  • Whilst understanding of some key topics is good (e.g. sea level rise), there is limited public awareness of some scientific issues (e.g. acidification), possibly reflecting a failure of communication in some instances (by scientists, project leaders, governments and policy makers). More emphasis is required on techniques to engage the public and on wider dissemination where awareness is lacking.
  • Ocean acidification was seen as a more immediate threat in Germany, Italy, France and the Czech Republic. In the UK and Norway, almost 30% of respondents said they did not know when impacts from acidification would become apparent (compared to the average of 18% for all countries combined). For acidification, those people visiting the Baltic, or the Black Sea thought this was already happening.
  • Looking at the ranking of how informed and concerned the public are about marine environmental matters, it was interesting to note that it is pollution, a non-climate change issue that people were most concerned about. However a number of climate change issues featured relatively highly on the list of issues respondents were most concerned about, notably melting sea-ice, coastal flooding, sea level rise and changes in extreme weather events. There was relatively low awareness about oceans becoming more acidic, despite ocean acidification being a major EU research theme. This limited knowledge may be due to the fact that this particular issue seems less ‘visible’ than some of the other climate related impacts listed, and it remains unclear how and whether this long-term change will impact people’s daily lives.
  • Public understanding of likely impacts (sea temperature change and sea level rise) tallied remarkably well with current scientific understanding, suggesting that the public has a fair degree of understanding or intuition about the likely magnitude of changes involved for these issues. With regards to when impacts might become apparent, it is arguably the most visible of those impacts, i.e. changes in extreme events, which the public perceived as the most immediate threats. The least ‘visible’ and most poorly understood impact, ocean acidification, was regarded as being the least immediate threat.

For more information please contact:
Paul Buckley, Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) Secretariat, CEFAS, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 0HT, UK paul.buckley@mccip.org.uk / www.clamer.eu


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