climate change equality media

Britain’s awareness of climate justice

Just before I went on holiday, some useful survey results came in from Christian Aid. They are currently researching attitudes around climate and race, and they commmissioned a poll asking people if they thought climate change disproportionately affected people of colour.

Here’s what they found:

  • 26% of Brits think that Black, Asian and Arab people are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, more intense storms, food insecurity and poor air quality.
  • 31% of Brits think that white people are most vulnerable.
  • 28% of Brits think that all ethnic groups are equally as vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

I am not particularly surprised that only a quarter of Brits recognise the racial aspect of climate justice. That’s actually a little higher than I might have guessed, and if the same survey had been conducted a year ago I suspect the figure would have been lower.

What really surprises me is the second figure. I’d have expected more people to say it was neutral, and it’s really depressing to see that the highest percentage goes to those getting it backwards. Climate change absolutely does not affect white people more, not any way you slice it. (Visual reminder above if you can’t remember which bits of the world are most affected.)

I don’t know where this idea comes from, though perhaps it is because the news covers natural disasters involving white people more than natural disasters involving Africa or Asia. Fires in Australia or hurricanes in America are perhaps over-representing white suffering, painting climate change upside down in people’s imaginations. In reality, climate change has been disproportionately caused by white majority countries of the global North, while the effects of climate change fall first and hardest on people of colour.

Digging into the detail of the survey, there is little difference across age. Unfortunately young people do not seem to be any more aware of the racial injustice of climate change than older people. Christianity doesn’t sharpen awareness of justice either, with 33% of Christians saying white people are most affected – more than the average.

Race shows the biggest divide. Only 2% of Asian and 5% of Black respondents said that White people were most affected.

My new book has the working title Is Climate Change Racist?, and I’m going to stick these stats in it right now.

2 comments

  1. That was shocking to me. I’ve obviously been too starry eyed on this. I guess it’s a feature of our overall hugely distorted reporting/attention bias, where we focus so much on stuff that’s of parochial concern to our own interests, and ignore other stuff, and default we effectively assume it doesn’t exist? So some big corrections here, even in my own thinking. I feel current affairs around Covid and BLM have opened up this stuff a lot, but think there’s a long way for all of us to go, in understanding and action. I hope your forthcoming book gets all the attention it surely deserves.

  2. Jeremy, when you have finished your new book “Is Climate Change racist?”, I have another book that I suggest that you might like to review : ” A World Parliament” by Andreas Bummel (Democracy without Borders) – perhaps there best way to really address climate crisis challenges!

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