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New report suggests that Singaporeans agree climate change is a major concern but do not feel they can make a difference

A new report on the Singapore public’s opinion on climate change shows that the vast majority of Singaporeans understand that manmade climate change is an urgent and serious matter, and they feel a strong responsibility to act.

The public research report, commissioned by NGO Climate Conversations and carried out by Singapore-based consumer research firm Milieu Insight, surveyed over 3000 Singaporeans between October 2018 and January 2019.

According to the report, 92% of respondents agree that climate change is mainly due to human activities. But there is still some confusion on that. When presented with more options for the question on the causes climate change, people become less certain of their answer with responses citing natural causes rising from 6% to 13%. Still, at least 52% knew that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming.

Image from Motivating Climate Action report by Milieu

The report also showed that Singaporeans almost universally fear that climate change will impact food prices and create economic hardship within their lifetimes. The majority of respondents expect these issues to be felt within the next two decades.

As such, about 92% of the public say that they prioritise the need for taking action against climate change. Still, only about 50% consider it a high priority and about 58% feel a moral duty to take action.

Even so, the report demonstrates that many Singaporeans feel disempowered in this area. As much as they want to take meaningful action, over 50% of respondents had no idea what they can do to make a difference. When asked, about 30% said they don’t think their actions make a difference at all.

Image from Motivating Climate Action report by Milieu

Also, many are sceptical that others around them care about climate change. The report noted that even though at least 2 in 3 respondents see people around them taking action, about 62% of respondents still feel that less than half of Singaporeans care about climate change. This suggests that while many want to take action, they may feel like they can’t make a difference if no one else is participating. The results are not visible enough to convince the public that their actions do make an impact.

In terms of motivation to take action, the report said that Singaporeans are intrinsically motivated. Only between 12% and 16% of Singaporeans take action for personal benefit (financial reward or to bolster their CV) while about 63% said they would do so out of concern for the future and the future of their children.

Image from Motivating Climate Action report by Milieu

“Singaporeans are acutely aware of the cause and impacts of climate change, and fear for its impact on our lives and the economy,” stated Shuyin Yeo Milieu Research

According to Tok Xin Ying, Co-founder of Climate Conversations, “Unsurprisingly, the desire to create safety and security for ourselves and our children in the near future is the major driver for Singaporeans wanting to tackle climate change.”

Milieu’s report also suggests that this means that environmental organisations can shift their focus towards making impact visible instead of just providing incentives for people to care. Essentially, people like to see how they efforts are paying off as that will motivate them to take the right action driven by their motivation to safeguard the future.

Of the seven options provided to respondents on actions they would support to address climate change, the top where charging companies a fee for pollution (73%), increasing investments in green energy (68%) and stopping investments and funding that cause deforestation. Other options included ending investment in polluting energy (55%), charging for plastic bags, adaptation, and fees for excessive water use.

Image from Motivating Climate Action report by Milieu

Tok Xin Ying  said, “As individuals, we are highly motivated to act, but at the same time many feel disempowered by the scale of the issue.  However, the findings from this research send a clear signal that people want to see ambitious climate action prioritised. In this country, that has to include our finance sector making responsible decisions to end financing for climate destructive energy sources like coal.”