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Filipinos top world in these 4 surprising attitudes towards climate change

December 7, 2021 blog-post climate-change climate-action sustainability development media government ngo

Economy or climate? According to Filipinos, there is no need to choose.

In a recent global survey, Filipinos emerged as the world’s most likely to believe climate action will drive economic growth and create jobs (77%). They also were the most likely to say that: they are already participating in a citizen-led climate campaign (35%) they need “a lot” or “some more” information on climate issues (83%) their country should use the same or more fossil fuels in the future (59%)

Conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Facebook Data for Good from February to March 2021, the survey asked Facebook users from 31 countries about their attitudes and beliefs towards climate change.

Here are four issues on which Filipinos topped the charts:

Skeptics of climate action often argue for prioritizing short-term economic growth over taking measures to respond to climate change, the impacts of which are perceived as long term. They also say that developing countries like the Philippines need to be more concerned with addressing poverty and unemployment than with climate change.

This survey reveals that most Filipinos don’t think this way. In fact, Filipinos believe that addressing climate change can fuel economic growth and create jobs.

Experts agree with them. According to research by the Swiss Re Institute, the global economy could fall by 10% by 2050 because of climate change. And should global warming continue to rise on its current path, the Philippines could lose a whopping 35% of its GDP by 2048 because of climate impacts like extreme weather, sea level rise, heat stress, and agricultural losses. Even today, Filipinos are all too familiar with the damage to life, property, and livelihood caused by every typhoon.

On the upside, other research has shown that increasing climate action and low-carbon economic development could grow Southeast Asia’s economy by 3.5% per year until 2050, creating economic gains of $12.5 trillion in present value terms.

One in three Filipino respondents to the survey also said they are already participating in citizen-led climate campaigns — the highest rate of any nation in the world.

Filipinos have a strong history of participation in non-violent protest movements. That has remained true as citizen campaigns have moved from the streets to social media platforms like Facebook, where Filipinos are among the world’s most active users. Examples of climate campaigns in the Philippines include the Youth for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, the Philippine chapter of the Climate Reality Project (which boasts the largest membership outside the US), and more. A separate but related study showed that in Southeast Asia, the Philippines had the highest rates of concern about social and environmental issues. This is despite the fact that the Philippines is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be an environmental activist. In 2020, the Philippines had the third-highest number of murdered environmental activists in the world.

But despite their strong belief in the economic value of tackling climate change and active participation in climate campaigns, Filipinos also were the most likely to say that they need “a lot more” or “some more” information to form an opinion on climate change. Several organizations are working to address this. For example, the Oscar M. Lopez Center, a climate science research institution, runs the “Balangay Media Project,” which provides grants and training to local journalists covering climate issues. The Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists and ClimateTracker.org run similar programs. The Department of Education also has a microsite that provides teachers with resources to tackle climate change in the classroom.

Surprisingly, most Filipino respondents did not agree that the Philippines should reduce its fossil fuel use in the coming years.

Even though the Philippines will be hit hard by climate change, the country bears less responsibility than rich nations for causing global warming, having contributed just 0.2% of historical carbon emissions. With many Filipinos still living in poverty and our per capita emissions being much lower than other countries, some advocates argue that improving our standard of living will increase our overall emissions. Others argue we can and should grow our economy on a low-carbon path with sufficient financial support from developed nations.

We’ll soon be publishing a more comprehensive visualization of the full survey results, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can access the full dataset at Facebook’s Data for Good page or read the full report on “International Opinion on Climate Change” published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.


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