Indians trust scientists on climate change

Majority of Indians trust scientists on climate change, survey shows. Copyright: Flickr/fbloeink

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[NEW DELHI] A majority of Indians trust scientists’ opinions on climate change and would urge their government to contribute to efforts to reduce global warming, says a Yale University survey.

The survey, ‘Climate Change in the Indian Mind,’ polled 4,031 Indian adults in rural and urban settings in November and December 2011 as part of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, in collaboration with the New Delhi-based non government organisation Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF).

Kunal Sharma, senior programme officer for climate policy at SSEF, told SciDev.Net that the objective of the survey, published last month (August 2012) was to discover what Indians expected their government to do about climate change.

The survey was designed to investigate the current state of climate change awareness, beliefs, attitudes, policy support and behaviour, as well as public observations of changes in local weather and climate patterns.

Some 70 per cent of those interviewed favoured the institution of a national programme to teach Indians about global warming.

"The survey findings will help in starting an initiative on climate change and will help in policy making since policymakers now know what has to be prioritised," Sharma said.

Scientists were the most trusted sources of information on global warming (73 per cent), followed by news media (69 per cent), and environmental organisations (68 per cent).

Curiously, only half of respondents said they trusted government and religious leaders.

Only seven per cent of respondents said they knew "a lot" about global warming, while 41 per cent had either "never heard of it" or said "I don’t know". When given a short definition of global warming, however, 72 per cent said that they believe it is already happening.

Some 54 per cent of respondents wanted India to make large or moderate-scale efforts to reduce global warming. 

India, a fast growing economy, is under constant pressure to reduce its carbon emissions by embracing environmental-friendly development policies, along with Brazil, China and South Africa.

The Yale survey, which examined self-reported vulnerability, found 50 per cent of respondents saying they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, while 43 per cent said that global warming is already harming or will harm people in India within the next 10 years.

Jagadish Thaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation, National University of Singapore, told SciDev.Net that India’s communication strategy is still evolving.

"The Indian scientific community – primarily through the Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment – is still gauging the national and regional impacts of climate change," Thaker said.   

Link to ‘Climate Change in the Indian Mind’: