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Survey: Finns increasingly concerned about climate change

Almost 60 percent of respondents to a recent Yle survey consider climate change a very serious problem, up from just 23 percent in 2012.

Sateinen Helsinki nähtynä auton tuulilasin läpi illalla.
Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

Finns have become increasingly concerned about climate change. Almost 60 percent of respondents to a recent Yle survey consider climate change to be a very serious problem.

That figure represents a dramatic upsurge from 2012, when 23 percent of those surveyed were of that opinion. At that time, the country was in the midst of an economic crisis and thousands of people were facing redundancy from work.

In comparison, just before the slump began in 2008, climate change was a major worry for 43 percent of Finnish people.

Is climate change a problem for Finnish people?
Image: Taloustutkimus ja Harri Vähäkangas / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

"It certainly plays a role how the economy is doing, but I also think that the scientific proof [that climate change is real] has become more compelling," says Professor Jyri Seppälä of the Finnish Environment Institute.

He believes that fluctuations in the economy will be less of a factor in people’s attitudes about climate change in the future. The threat that climate change poses will have grown so serious that it cannot be ignored any longer, even by those in insecure jobs, Seppälä says.

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Climate change caused by human activity
Image: Taloustutkimus ja Harri Vähäkangas / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Finns well educated on climate change

All in all, Finns have a high level of education and tend to trust society and science. That has shaped their views on the significance of climate change, Seppälä says.

In addition, the refugee crisis in the past years has given the Finnish people a taste of what could happen when hotter, arid regions become less hospitable thanks to climate change, driving people to seek shelter elsewhere en masse.

"People here understand that climate change has more effects besides just not having snow in the winter," Seppälä adds.

While some believe that the benefits of climate change will surpass the disadvantages – about a fifth of those surveyed – Seppälä cautions that any possible positive effects could be temporary.

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Pros and cons
Image: Taloustutkimus ja Harri Vähäkangas / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Strong relationship with nature

The increased worry about climate change can also reflect the Finns’ traditional bond with the nature, which is still quite strong in international comparison, says Panu Pihkala, who does research on environmental anxiety at the University of Helsinki.

"Many parents have strong emotions about the world in which their children and grandchildren will have to live. Some of them feel guilt and shame," Pihkala says.

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Finland should act to stop climate change
Image: Taloustutkimus and Harri Vähäkangas / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Likely as a consequence of this, a majority of the respondents in the survey said Finland should act to stop climate change, even if other countries do not.

The survey of 1,117 people was carried out by Taloustutkimus on behalf of Yle, and the margin of error was +-2.5 percentage points.

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