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Russians believe dire predictions about climate change

Three quarters of Russians believe climate change is a threat to human existence, and one third is absolutely sure of this, according to results of a public opinion poll by the Global Challenges Foundation in Stockholm. Representatives of non-governmental environmental organizations believe that the climate change comes out of the sphere of scientific discussion and becomes a pressing issue for residents of Russia.

The Global Challenges Foundation presented results of a public opinion poll on climate change held in nine countries (Russia, USA, Brazil, China, Poland, Germany, India, South Africa and Sweden). The Foundation has carried out more than 1,000 online interviews in each of these countries since the beginning of 2014.

The survey indicates that 59 % of Russians name human activity as the main cause of global warming, pointing mainly on greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. 63 % of Russian respondents believe that, in the long term, climate change may cause the death of all living things, and 14 % believe that the probability of such adverse events is very high. Russians are not the only nation that supports the dire predictions: 46 % of Indians and 40 % of Chinese agree with them.

31 % of Russian respondents are absolutely convinced of the need for measures to prevent extremely dangerous climate catastrophes, even if it would require significant investments already in the present, and 38 % said that they accept the need for action to prevent such disasters.

The Climate Secretariat of the Russian Social Ecological Union has already reported about a similar survey that was conducted about a year ago at the initiative of the Interdepartmental Working Group under the Administration of the President on matters related to climate change and sustainable development. A year ago, only 54 % of Russians have confirmed that they know or have heard something (36 %) of the global climate change. Less than half of the country's population estimated climate change as a warning to future generations. One third considered that this is a problem of our time, and only one in seven respondents believed that global warming is not a threat for anyone. About 40 % of the respondents believed that mankind has already understood the importance of climate change problem, while 17 % of those surveyed believed that people will never admit the importance of this issue.

A year ago, more than half of respondents (53 %) would support introduction of economic incentives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in Russia. At the same time, one in three respondents found it difficult to answer this question.

In general, the results of the current and last year's surveys were much more "climate-friendly" than it was expected by international experts, who argued that "the level of awareness and concern about climate change among the Russian population, though still relatively low, continues to grow steadily". Experts still believe that "extreme weather events may further push society to the public debate on these issues and, ultimately, catalyze a national policy."

The online survey may have covered a more informed group of people who use the Internet, as opposed to last year's survey, which was presumably within a wider range of people. If it is one of the reasons that on-line survey participants were more informed on the issue of climate change, this only confirms that extensive information work aimed at different groups of the population is needed to build up the public understanding how serious is the problem of climate change.

Representatives of environmental organizations are positive about the fact that the Russians cease to perceive climate change as an abstract theory. Observers of climate negotiations hope that the results of public opinion polls inspire the representatives of Russia to act more constructively on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. Russians want to see their country among the leaders of the climate process.