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Climate change is the ‘biggest threat to way of life in next ten years’, according to major EU-wide survey

June 27, 2024

There’s no denying that climate impact is an increasingly recognised threat to our traditional way of life. Europe is experiencing significant shifts in climate patterns, impacting not only the environment, but also finances. The increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, including droughts and wildfires, the rising sea levels, as well as the shifting biodiversity are clear indicators that climate change is a pressing reality for the continent.

FINN Partners’ Global Intelligence team undertook a research survey with over 11,000 respondents across 27 European countries. The main objective was to ascertain which countries across the continent are most concerned about climate change and understand how this might be affecting their daily behaviour and life choices. The survey also set out to better understand perceptions and attitudes towards climate change and environmental sustainability, identify perceived threats and evaluate concerns about severity and impacts. The primary survey also explored behavioural patterns and lifestyle choices related to conservation and sustainable practices, and investigated intergenerational worries and geographical mobility influenced by extreme weather events. Additionally, it examined public perceptions of government actions on climate issues and personal responsibility for climate action.

Perceptions of climate impact in the fastest-warming continent

As the fastest-warming continent, according to the European Environment Agency, the challenges of climate change are becoming more apparent and urgent in Europe. From the given survey options, respondents’ cited climate change as the biggest perceived threat to way of life over the next decade, selected by two in five people (40%) , ahead of other politically hot issues including immigration (25%), pandemics (22%) and artificial intelligence (15%). Concerns on the issue are so heightened that more than half (55%) believe extreme weather events will even play a part in where they choose to live in the next 20 years.

Three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed are concerned about the effects of extreme weather events. The most common worries include escalating heatwaves, with 41% of people fearful of increasing temperatures. Drought and water scarcity follow at 29%, with flooding and wildfires also causing considerable anxiety among 14% and 12% of respondents respectively. Although these concerns reflect a deeper, more holistic understanding of the effects of these environmental challenges, resistance to evidence still exists. Notably one in ten (10%) of respondents are of the opinion that man-made climate change is not happening and a further 3.5% hold the view that it is not occurring at all. If these figures were replicated across the whole of the EU, it would amount to 60 million inhabitants of the bloc either denying that humans are the main cause of climate change or claiming it is not happening at all.

Despite national nuances, most Europeans worry about impact on next generations

Most of Italy’s respondents (85%) acknowledge the reality of man-made climate change — among the highest across the countries surveyed — translating this awareness into proactive behaviours such as minimising food waste and optimising home energy use. These actions, shared by their French neighbours, underline a commitment to sustainable practices that both mitigate climate impact and promote economic stability.

Environmental worries span a wide range of issues, including plastic pollution, deforestation, water and air pollution, extreme weather events like flooding and violent storms, and the loss of biodiversity.

However, the heightened awareness and proactive measures contrast sharply with the public’s view of political efforts to tackle climate issues. EU citizens’ views on national governments’ accomplishments on addressing climate and environmental issues are damning, with fewer than one in five (17%) believing they have performed mostly well or very well. Almost half (46%) say their national government’s performance on the issue has been mostly poor or very poor. The EU is seen to have performed marginally better, but even there only one-fifth (20%) believe they have performed well (compared to 42% who suggested they have performed poorly). In Spain, the perception of political action is largely negative, indicating a significant disconnect between government policies and public expectations. This scepticism underscores a broader European demand for policies that not only address but anticipate the worsening conditions predicted by scientific research.

The time to address climate impact concerns is now

Given the widespread concern and varying degrees of action across different regions, an integrated approach to address climate impact is more crucial than ever before. By fostering awareness, strengthening policies, promoting sustainable behaviours, and preparing for inevitable changes, Europe can hope to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure a safer, more stable future for its citizens. The commitment observed in countries like Italy and France towards sustainable practices could serve as models for others. Lastly, public education and awareness campaigns can be widely used to further enhance understanding and drive collective action – it is a challenging path ahead, but with unified efforts, it is possible to foster a sustainable and resilient future for all.

FINN Partners’ Global Intelligence team has capabilities to help address some of the most widely discussed issues and topics across a range of industries. Get in touch to find out more about our research expertise by emailing

TAGS: Sustainability & ESG

POSTED BY: Joy Livera

Joy Livera