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Europeans over 30 understand climate change better than younger generations, EIB survey finds

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EIB // The fight against climate change requires collective action — from governments, institutions, businesses and individuals. A good understanding of the climate challenge is essential for people to make informed choices. To assess the public’s understanding of climate change, the sixth edition of the EIB Climate Survey focuses on people’s knowledge of climate change in three key areas: definitions and causes, consequences, and solutions. Participants answered 12 questions and were ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 indicating the highest level of knowledge. With over 30 000 respondents across 35 countries, including the EU Member States, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, India and Canada, the EIB Climate Survey provides valuable insights into people’s overall understanding of climate change.


Key findings

  • Scores: The European Union (score: 6.37/10) has come ahead of the United States (score: 5.38/10) in the latest EIB survey on knowledge about the causes and consequences of climate change and solutions to address it.
>@EIB
  • Generational gap: Respondents over 30 in the European Union demonstrated greater knowledge of the causes and consequences of climate change compared to younger generations.
  • Overall knowledge gaps: Respondents generally demonstrated a solid understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change. Meanwhile, awareness of solutions often lags behind. A significant share of respondents in the European Union (74%) and the United States (77%) were unaware of the benefits of reducing speed limits on roads. Additionally, 56% of European respondents and 60% of American respondents did not know that better insulating buildings can help combat climate change.

Generational divide in the European Union

Climate change knowledge varies by age. Respondents over 30 in the European Union scored higher overall (6.47/10) than those under 30 (5.99/10).

For example, 74% of respondents over 30 recognise the importance of recycling products, compared to 66% of younger respondents. There is a notable disparity in knowledge about the benefits of insulating buildings to combat climate change, with 48% of over 30s being aware of this, compared to only 30% of under 30s. 27% of those over 30 understand the climate benefits of reducing speed limits on roads, compared to just 20% of their younger counterparts.

Definitions and causes of climate change

On the definition and causes of climate change, respondents in the European Union (7.21/10) scored well above people in the United States (5.95/10).

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  • Most respondents (EU27: 71%; United States: 58%) correctly defined climate change as a long-term shift in global climate patterns, although Europeans displayed a 13-point advantage over Americans.
  • Most respondents (EU27: 74%; United States: 64%) recognise human activities such as deforestation, agriculture, industry and transport as the primary drivers of climate change. The rest attribute it to natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and heatwaves (25%), or to the ozone hole (11%).
  • Most respondents (EU27: 72%; United States: 58%) correctly identified the United States, China and India as the top greenhouse gas emitters worldwide, with European respondents leading by a 14-point margin over Americans. However, four in ten Americans excluded China from their answers, indicating a lack of awareness about its position as one of the top three emitters worldwide and the primary contributor to global CO2 emissions.

Consequences of climate change

When asked about the consequences of climate change, respondents in the European Union scored 7.65/10. This is significantly higher than the score of Americans, which averaged 6.13/10.

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  • The most widely recognised consequence of climate change across all surveyed countries is its impact on world hunger. 85% of Europeans and 68% of Americans correctly associated climate change with worsening world hunger due to the impact of extreme weather on crops.
  • 82% of Europeans and 71% of Americans understand the negative impacts on human health, including that climate change can lead to an increase in air pollutants.
  • When it comes to understanding the effects of climate change on sea levels, a significant share of American respondents (45%, compared to 29% of Europeans) have misconceptions. While sea level rise is recognised by most Europeans (71%), nearly half of Americans (45%) believe either that sea levels are falling (22%) or that climate change does not have a specific impact on sea levels (23%).
  • 69% of respondents in the European Union and 52% in the United States are aware that climate change fuels global migration due to forced displacement.

Solutions to climate change

Respondents scored lower on their awareness of climate change solutions (4.25/10 in the European Union; 4.07/10 in the United States) than in the other two areas (causes and consequences of climate change).

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  • While most respondents are aware of solutions such as recycling (EU27: 72%; United States: 63%), knowledge gaps remain, with over a third of Americans (37%) unaware that recycling can help.
  • Only four in ten European and American respondents (44% and 40%, respectively) are aware of the positive impact of building insulation.
  • There is also limited knowledge among respondents of the benefits of reducing speed limits (EU27: 26%; United States: 23%)

The European Investment Bank plays a key role in financing solutions for climate change and in raising awareness of this critical issue. 
As the financing arm of the European Union, the EIB invests in major projects globally, such as climate adaptation in Jordan, sustainable transport in India, small-scale solar energy in Brazil, green steel production in Sweden and Europe’s biggest solar gigafactory in Italy. Projects like these highlight our commitment to sustainable development and lower carbon emissions.
The European Investment Bank also supports educational and academic climate programmes, such as the European Chair for Sustainable Development and Climate Transition at Sciences Po, Paris. These programmes equip younger generations with the knowledge to address climate change. The EIB’s educational work is an investment in the human capital essential to long-term environmental sustainability.

President of the European Investment Bank Nadia Calviño said: “Climate action is the defining challenge of our generation.  As the financial arm of the European Union, the EIB Group is committed to financing effective projects that tackle climate change and to raising awareness about this pressing issue. We are working closely with public institutions, cities, the private sector and civil society to support climate solutions and to ensure that the green transition is affordable and that it offers new opportunities.”

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