South Africans’ confidence that a climate crisis will be averted in their lifetimes has declined from 58.9% in 2021 to 56.6% in 2022 according to the second annual Epson Climate Reality Barometer released this week.
The survey measures the opinions and experiences of over 520 South Africans as part of a global study by Epson into the causes and possible mitigations to climate change around the world.
“The 2021 survey explored the various contributing factors to climate change and humanity’s ability to deal with it effectively, from scientific and government interventions to a slow uptake of renewable energy,” says Timothy Thomas, country manager, Epson South Africa.
“This year’s survey focused on the actions that individuals have taken, or intend to take, to help tackle climate change, from less international business and leisure travel, to switching to an electric vehicle, walking or cycling more, switching to renewable energy and using more sustainable brands.”
Globally, climate change is on average ranked third as a priority issue that governments, companies and individuals should be focussed on. However, in South Africa, it is ranked fourth at 9.4% behind fixing the economy (40%), tackling poverty (19.9%) and managing inflation (14%).
Findings also suggest that age is a factor, with the oldest age range (55+) most concerned about climate change (over 15%) and those in the 45 – 54 and 16 – 24 age ranges at under 7% each the least concerned.
This is despite the impact of climate change witnessed in recent years, including intense rains affecting the eastern coast of South Africa, resulting in increased devastating flooding and landslides across KwaZulu-Natal and widespread ongoing droughts across the Eastern and Western Cape. This, the survey notes, suggests a ‘reality deficit’ in people potentially misunderstanding the full future impacts of climate change.
Despite the varying issues South Africans believe government, companies and individuals should be prioritising, many are already playing their part to tackle climate change by adopting various sustainable habits.
For example, 32.5% of South Africans have volunteered to travel less internationally, with a further 31.4% planning to do so in future. While only 8% have switched to an electric vehicle, 63% are looking to make the change in future.
Over 60% are already walking and cycling more, reducing their plastic use, improving recycling habits and using reusable goods. Over a third (36%) are travelling to the office less, while a quarter are already encouraging their workplaces to commit to further efforts towards a net zero carbon strategy, with nearly half planning to in the future.
While individual actions are ramping up, and as the world prepares for COP27 in Egypt this year, it’s clear that much more needs to be done if the world is to avert a climate disaster. Governments need to regulate for sustainability, businesses need to develop sustainable policies and technologies, and individuals need to accelerate lifestyle changes – if the world is to meet its climate change targets and avoid irreversible change.
“As Epson works towards its Environmental Vision 2050, we are focused on various climate protection and biodiversity initiatives that use a circular economy as a more comprehensive approach, enlisting the actions of individuals, organisations and governments” says Thomas.
“As a global technology leader, we must refocus our efforts on developing solutions which will help reduce the environmental impact of our products. By cooperating and finding solutions, we can collectively inspire action and bring about change together. While we know we have a long way to go, we believe we will build a better future if we work together and act now,” he concludes.