It never rains but it pours

November: As COP28 kicks off in the UAE, we review global citizens’ expectations for the future of climate change

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Climate change

‘It never rains but it pours’ is a colloquial British term dating from the 1700s to mean that if one event occurs it is likely to be followed by a number of other subsequent events. Although a metaphor, it also provides a very literal description of the climate-induced weather events that we are witnessing more and more frequently across the globe, and as documented by the United Nations.

As we move through the third decade of the 21st century, climate change has emerged from the realm of scientific theory to stark reality, with a majority of the global population reporting they have already witnessed its severe impacts and seven in ten people across 31 countries anticipating that climate change will have a "severe effect" in their area where the live within the next ten years.

From 30 November to 12 December, COP28 will take place in the United Arab Emirates. As world leaders come together to set a plan to tackle the global threat of climate change, we explore how citizens across the globe are experiencing and anticipating its impact, as well as how well informed they feel to make more positive choices for the planet.

Climate change impact: a global concern

The year 2023 has seen a continued pattern of extreme weather events across the globe, so many that it is difficult to highlight just a few. However, the extreme floods witnessed in Libya due to storm Daniel in September, with the loss of over 10,000 lives, and then the wildfires in Canada over the spring and summer which destroyed three times the area compared to previous records do come immediately to mind. These and the fact that in 2023 the world experienced the hottest July since records began in 1800.

Ipsos | Almanac | Climate Change
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

These weather phenomena are not isolated incidents but symptoms of the larger issue which is climate change. A recent Ipsos study found that 57% of people across 31 countries report already seeing a severe effect of climate change in the area where they live. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Türkiye are experiencing the impacts more acutely, with as many as eight in ten citizens acknowledging the severe effects of climate change.

Displacement: a looming threat

The escalating weather events are not just causing immediate destruction; they are also creating a looming threat of displacement. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) one person every second has been displaced by weather-related events such as floods, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures since 2008. This occurrence is expected to increase with a prediction that 1.2 billion people could be displaced globally by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters.

This increased displacement of people, termed as ‘climate refugees’, is reflected in expectations of global citizens with 38% believing that they could be displaced from their homes due to the impacts of climate change within the next 25 years. The concern is highest in Türkiye (68%) and Brazil (61%), where the effects of climate change are already visible. This has significant impacts for where we live, work and how we lead our lives in the future.

Information gap and action deficit

While global citizens are aware of the severity of climate change, they believe the information provided by their own government and businesses is inadequate. Six in ten (59%) people criticize their government for not providing enough information on how to make better choices to address climate change. This is notably higher in South American countries such as Peru, Argentina, Columbia and Chile where more than three-quarters of citizens say their government is not informing them fully.

Moreover, the study reveals a significant action deficit in tackling climate change. An astonishing 59% of respondents say their government is not working hard enough to tackle climate change, with businesses and citizens themselves also coming under criticism for not doing enough.

There is also the perception that businesses are using environmental claims without making commitments to real change. This is most notable in Great Britain where eight in ten citizens (80%) say that businesses are doing this at least occasionally and almost half (48%) state that business are doing this all the time or frequently. Britain is closely followed by citizens in Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand in holding the belief that businesses do this regularly.

This suggests that greenwashing is still felt to be very much present and citizens in many countries are yet to be convinced that businesses are being honest about the claims they make. So it seems there is still much that needs to be learnt about building trust through effective advertising ensuring that brands stay true to what they stand for and ensuring these values are embedded in customer experience.

Media's role and public perception

The role of media in shaping public perception about climate change is pivotal. However, our study found a widespread belief that, in general, the media underestimates the impact of climate change (42%). More than one in two citizens say this is the case in Columbia, Mexico, Argentina, Hungary, Türkiye and Peru. In contrast, only a small percentage of global citizens (23%) believe the media exaggerates its effects – the only exceptions being India and the Netherlands where opinion is more divided.

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Climate


Looking back at the weather events of 2023, it's clear that the effects of climate change are not only becoming more severe but are also being felt by an increasing number of people around the world. However, Ipsos data reveals a critical disconnect between the public's concerns and the actions taken by governments, businesses and individuals themselves.

As we move forward, it's crucial that this gap is addressed. Governments, businesses, and the media must work together to provide accurate information and take decisive action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. As the old proverb goes, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." The time to act is now.