The individual perception of the negative impacts of climate change


  • Anita Pettersson-Strömbäck
  • Kadri Meister
  • Karin Mossberg Sonnek

Publish date: 2012-10-10

Report number: FOI-R--3488--SE

Pages: 87

Written in: Swedish


  • Climate change
  • adaptation
  • risk
  • individual
  • survey
  • health
  • property
  • nature
  • rainfall
  • dry spells
  • heat
  • sea levels


The climate is changing and will continue to change for the foreseeable future, even if we were to halt all emissions of greenhouse gases today. Faced with this changed climate, society needs to adapt to be able to cope with a rising average temperature, rising sea levels and more extreme weather, such as heat waves or heavy precipitation. Progress in terms of adaptation work on climate change among Sweden's municipalities varies, with some having produced adaptation strategies and proposed adaptation measures, while others have yet to make a start. Despite this, it is the individual who will have to take greater responsibility, adapting his/her everyday life. The municipalities will be responsible for informing inhabitants about risks and adaptation measures. For this to happen, the population needs to be aware of the risks. This study aims to examine perception of the adverse effects of climate change among the Swedish population and whether or not the Swedes are prepared to implement measures to reduce the risks. The study included a survey of TNS Sifo:s web panel. The survey included both open and closed questions and involved 1,050 respondents. Responses were analysed quantitatively to see whether gender and age affected responses and the open answer were analysed qualitatively. The results showed, in accordance with previous studies, that 95 % of Swedes aged 16-75 years think that climate change affects the Swedish population. More men than women responded that no impact will be felt. Of those who responded that "we in Sweden" will be affected, 78 % think that their family will experience adverse effects, while 72 % think they will experience the effects personally. More women than men responded this way. The older age groups (45-64 years and 65+) responded less often that climate change would have negative consequences (with the exception of heavier rainfall) or affect factors such as health, property or nature. Four effects of climate change were mentioned during the survey. When respondents were asked which effects were likely to affect them personally, 80 % responded heavy rainfall, 56 % more intense heat waves, 49 % more prolonged dry spells, and 33 % sea level rises. On the matter of what will be adversely affected "local natural environment" was the most common response among the fixed response options given. "My property" and "my health" were much less frequent responses. Respondents also had the opportunity to mention other aspects that might be affected by climate change. Wholly personal aspects mentioned included own financial situation, the home, the garden, transport, social contact and leisure activities. A deterioration in quality of life and increased concern were also mentioned. When respondents were asked if they thought they would notice the adverse effects of climate change personally, one fifth responded that they already notice the effects of more intense heat waves and heavier rainfall. The effects of sea level rises and more prolonged dry spells are more likely to be felt in the future. Finally, respondents were asked whether they would do anything to reduce the risk to themselves of the adverse effects of climate change. Of those who responded that they might be affected personally, 67 % would take action. More women than men responded this way. Responses to the open question about what action the person would take can be divided into two categories: one where the respondent had a cognitive approach (e.g. mental preparation, kept themselves informed) and one involving an active approach (e.g. political participation, concrete measures). The results imply that as perception of what the adverse effects will mean varies, information activities must be tailored to the various target groups (for instance, men and older people). It can also be the case that younger people may experience inertia in the implementation of measures, while older people regard measures as unnecessary, which is something that must be tackled by responsible authorities and organisations.