Almost one-third of Europeans falsely believe that the polar ice caps have already melted, according to a poll published Tuesday.
The poll found that 26 percent of Europeans believe the Arctic Ocean is already ice-free in the summer, and 30 percent believe global warming has already warmed up Earth’s oceans by 2 degrees Celsius. Neither of these things has actually happened, and climate scientists project that the earliest these events could occur would be the year 2100.
“This is hugely disturbing because if these changes have already occurred in their minds, what incentive do these citizens have to demand action to prevent such changes?” Dr. Carlos Duarte, the co-author of the poll, said in a press statement.
The poll also found that 54 percent of Europeans believe humans play a minor role or no role at all in global warming. Europeans tend to be more concerned with environmental issues that don’t have much to do with global warming, the poll found.
“A surprising number are poorly informed, and even misinformed revealing a major failure at communicating climate change science to the public,” Duarte said.
Scientists with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory conducted the poll, which was published in the academic journal “Frontiers in Marine Science.”
Duarte surveyed 10,000 citizens across 10 European countries in a first-of-its-kind poll. He found that citizens from Germany, Italy and Spain claimed to be the most informed on environmental issues, while those from the Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Estonia claimed to be least informed. Young people were the most likely to be skeptical about disastrous global warming consequences.
“We are at a time when decisions made will have irreversible consequences and this level of misinformation is a huge vulnerability for society in general and for future generations,” Duarte said. “The survey calls for a major shift in the way we communicate climate change with far less emphasis on what changes may occur in the future, as these can be misinterpreted by the public, and we need a greater involvement of university scientists.”