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Shifting Paradigms

This report highlights the wide variation in how people in nine countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and the United States) view the climate crisis and structural changes to the economy. For many people there is a gap between their views on the economy and their evaluation of the scope of climate change policy. If European policymakers and citizens are going to effectively address the climate crisis, they must examine the economy and climate policies in a unified and coherent way.

Our research indicates that people with formal education do not necessarily support transformative policies and, in fact, may even oppose them on ideological grounds. While demographic differences are not consistent across countries, we find that climate-specific knowledge does play an important role—and to a much greater extent than formal education in general. People who know more about the causes and consequences of climate change are more likely to favour transformative climate policy as well as state intervention in the economy.

The study shows how important it is to examine the interplay of views on climate policy specifically and wider economic policy. There is no automatic link between the two and the precise interplay varies greatly between countries. Strategies for engaging publics in wider economic debates linked to climate policy need to be designed with a clear understanding of the respective national contexts. If advocates and policymakers can focus debates on specific, transformative climate policies that are designed well, they may be able to work with— not against— large segments of the population in developing a greater alignment between their specific preferences and overall outlook on the system.

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