Climate change has replaced poverty, hunger and the lack of drinking water as the single most serious problem facing the world for Irish people, according to the results of a new survey by the European Commission.
However, the Eurobarometer poll also reveals an increase in the number of Irish people who do not regard climate change as a serious issue.
The survey of the attitudes of EU citizens to climate change highlights how Irish people regard it as a considerably more serious problem than most Europeans.
The poll of almost 27,000 people across the 27 EU member states, including more than 1,000 in the Republic, shows that 31% of Irish people regard climate change as the greatest problem facing the planet compared to the EU average of 18%.
It is the fourth highest level after Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
A similar study just two years ago had climate change ranked in third place among Irish people.
Citizens of only eight EU countries, including Ireland, ranked climate change as the single most serious problem facing the world in the latest survey, with 12 countries rating the spread of infectious diseases of greater seriousness.
The survey showed younger people across Europe aged 15-24 are more likely to regard climate change as a serious problem than older age groups.
However, the proportion of Irish people who do not regard climate change as a serious problem is also growing - up from 4% in 2019 to 8% this year.
Nevertheless, the findings show a strong trend in the recognition by the majority of Irish people of the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions, even though the figure has decreased slightly among EU citizens. They reveal that 81% of Irish people now regard climate change as a very serious problem - up from 75% two years ago and 59% in 2015.
The proportion of Irish respondents who believe the Government is responsible for tackling the issue has also risen significantly - up from 48% in 2019 to 74% now.
However, only 18% said they believed the Government was already doing enough to tackle climate change.
At the same time, almost three-quarters of Irish people (72%) stated they had taken personal action in the previous six months to fight climate change.
The survey showed Irish people are the best in the EU for trying to reduce their waste, with 89% claiming they also regularly separate waste for recycling, compared to the EU average of 75%.
Ireland is ranked in first place for the proportion of people who have insulated their homes better in order to reduce their energy bills, with 37% taking such action - more than twice the EU average.
In addition, Irish consumers had the highest rating for considering their carbon footprint in terms of their food purchasing choices. Four out of ten Irish consumers said they had adapted their shopping habits over such concerns, compared to the EU average of 16%.
Irish people were also the most supportive of the belief that adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change can have positive benefits for ordinary citizens.
Almost 9 in 10 Irish people agreed that the cost of damage due to climate change is much higher than the investment needed for a green transition.
They also indicated they are overwhelmingly supportive of both the Government and the EU setting ambitious targets to increase the amount of renewable energy used by 2030.
The EU has proposed a legal objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 with a target of reducing collective greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% of 1990 levels by 2030.
It is estimated that economic losses in the EU from climate-related extreme events already average more than €12bn a year.
Conservative estimates have forecast that exposing the EU economy to global warming of 3°C above pre-industrial levels would result in an annual loss of at least €170bn.
It has been projected there could be 400,000 premature deaths annually over the next century due to air pollution, as well as 90,000 annual deaths due to heatwaves, with 2.2m people exposed to coastal flooding every year.
In some Mediterranean countries, water supplies could fall by an estimated 40% over the same time period.
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