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Report: Turkey’s political polarization affects perception of climate crisis – Bianet English

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« According to the results of “Perception of Climate Change and Environmental Problems in Turkey in 2021” report, three out of every four people attribute the climate crisis to human activities and 66 percent of society are worried about climate change » says Bianet English.

İklim Haber (Climate News) and KONDA Research conducted their fourth survey to measure the public perception of climate change in Turkey and to find out public opinion on the deepening climate crisis.

Carried out with the participation of 3,634 people across Turkey, the face-to-face survey of « Perception of Climate Change and Environmental Problems in Turkey in 2021 » sets out to analyze public perception of climate change in a period when Turkey has recently ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and Turkey has been hit by more severe fires and floods.

What is climate change?

As part of the survey, the respondents were first asked, « Which of the following represents your opinion of climate change the best? » While 75 percent of the respondents opted for « It is the result of human activities », 25 percent said that « it is a natural process. »

The year before, 71.4 percent of respondents were of the opinion that the climate crisis was the result of human activities. Therefore, these results have shown that people’s awareness about the relationship between human activities and the climate crisis has increased.

How worried are we?

According to the survey results, nearly three quarters of Turkey’s society are worried about climate change.

While 42 percent of respondents opted for « I am worried », 24 percent said, « I am very worried. » Moreover, 58 percent of respondents were of the opinion that the climate crisis is a bigger crisis than the pandemic and it will cause more damage when compared to the pandemic.

Extreme weather events and climate crisis

When people were asked, « Do you think that climate change has played a role in recent irregular weather events in Turkey such as floods, storms, extreme temperatures and drought? », 77 percent answered in the affirmative. In 2019, this rate was 71 percent.

When they were asked about the causes of the forest fires last summer, only 14 percent of the respondents answered « climate change ». While 36 percent attributed the fires to terrorist activities, 27 percent referred to the wish to zone the razed forest lands for construction.

Paris Agreement and ‘Net Zero Emission’

In late 2021, Turkey’s Parliament passed the Paris Climate Agreement and it was later announced that Turkey would reach its net zero carbon emissions target by the year 2053. The respondents of the survey were asked whether they knew about this Agreement or the target.

83 percent said that they did not have any information about the target. The survey results have shown that the voters of all parties are more likely to approve of this target when they have information about it.

In another question, people were asked, « Do you have information about the Paris Climate Agreement? » Only one quarter of them answered in the affirmative; 76 percent of society do not know about the Paris Agreement or that Turkey’s Parliament has passed the Agreement.

Of the ones who know about the agreement, 71 percent also know that it has been approved by the Parliament.

Comments on the survey results

Speaking about the survey results, İklim Haber (Climate News) Editor-in-Chief Barış Doğru has said that the social polarization, which is constantly incited in the country, has finally started to manifest itself in people’s approach to the issues of climate and environment.

Noting that the awareness and worries about the climate crisis saw an increase in Turkey in 2021 as well and thereby topped the world averages, Barış Doğru has underlined that « the division about the causes of forest fires is a bad sign ». He has explained:

« People are having difficulty in having an objective stance on the issue or listening to science. Partisanship may also be a huge obstacle to the struggle against the climate crisis in the upcoming days. »

Prof. Doğan Tolunay has also commented on the survey results. Referring to the respondents attributing forest fires to « terrorist organizations », especially among the ruling party voters, and to the efforts to zone for construction, especially among the opposition, Tolunay has found it interesting that there is only one example where a razed forest land has been zoned for construction and the official data of the General Directorate of Forestry have shown that only six of the 2,730 forest fires that broke out in Turkey in a year were caused by « terrorist organizations ».

« It may be said that the failure of the authorities obligated to investigate forest fires such as the Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry to make any statements has been a factor leading people to think that forests are burned by terrorist organizations, » Tolunay Prof. has noted, underlining that « a willing or unwilling silence on the matter poses an obstacle to the prevention of forest fires, which will increase in number, intensity and sphere of influence as a result of climate change in the future. »

KONDA Research General Manager Bekir Ağırdır has also indicated that while there has been an increase in social awareness about climate change, the polarization based on being pro-government and pro-opposition has also effects on the consequences of climate change. (TP/SD)

Bianet English, February 16, 2022, Photo/Bestami Bodruk/Anadolu Images

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