Turning Concern into Action: Understanding Climate Change Attitudes in Pakistan

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Man crossing rope bridge over river in Pakistan Man crossing rope bridge over river in Pakistan

Pakistan is grappling with the profound impacts of climate change, such as shifting weather patterns and catastrophic floods (Baron et all, 2022). Unfortunately, these impacts are projected to escalate, with forecasts suggesting that climate-related events, environmental degradation, and air pollution may cause Pakistan's GDP to shrink by 18-20% by 2050. This alarming statistic underscores the need to address climate change and mitigate its effects on people and their livelihoods. Even though developing countries like Pakistan may not be the primary contributors to climate change, acknowledging and confronting its fallout is indispensable, especially for combatting pressing local issues like air pollution and smog.

The necessity to adapt and the implications of actions for local issues make it essential to understand people's prioritization of addressing climate change, their trusted sources of information, and the motivating factors behind their actions. To answer these questions, we conducted a phone survey of a random sample of 2,000 parents in Pakistan who have access to a cell phone and have school-aged children using random digit dialing. The key findings have been released in a recent policy note.

The results of the survey show that most people, regardless of gender or education level, are highly concerned about the impact of climate change on children, with over 80 percent expressing concern. The survey shows that although people are worried about climate change and its effects, it is not always their top priority. When asked to choose the top three issues facing Pakistan, less than a quarter of participants chose climate change. This suggests that while people are worried about climate change, it may not be their priority issue.

In the survey, when a random subset of people were presented with economic issues first, there was a 4-percentage point (statistically significant) rise in the likelihood of individuals considering climate change among top three issues of Pakistan, compared to when social issues were presented first. This prioritization of climate change when seen as an economic issue is more pronounced among individuals with higher educational attainment (see Figure 1).

Bar chart showing that people give higher priority to climate change as a top issue when economic issues are ordered first
Figure 1: People give higher priority to climate change as a top issue when economic issues are ordered first

How knowledgeable are people about climate information and whom do they trust?

The survey looked at people's knowledge of and trust in different sources of information about climate change. Those with higher levels of education are more informed about climate change.  For example, only 47 percent of illiterate people believe that the earth is getting warmer due to human activity, compared to 60 percent of those with higher education or above. Findings also show significant distrust overall in traditional sources of information, with the least educated being the most likely to distrust these sources. Among these sources, news media leads as the most important source of information while less than 1/5 trust scientists. This highlights the lack of trust in traditional climate change leadership, including the possibility of misinformation from the media. This poses a significant challenge to educating people about climate change.

Figure 2: Traditional Sources of Information about Climate Change are Least Trusted such as news media
Figure 2: Traditional sources of information about climate change are least trusted

How are people addressing climate change in Pakistan?

Families want their children to learn about climate change, but they are relying on the schools to fulfill this role. Almost all households in the survey said they support education about climate in schools.  However, less than half talk about it at home. This shows that schools could play a role in promoting conversations and educating families about climate change.

The survey reveals that, despite frequently adopting money-saving measures such as turning off lights (76%) to combat climate change, people exhibit less enthusiasm for endorsing more impactful actions like using public transport (36%) or cutting down on meat consumption. Reducing the disconnect between concern and action requires understanding people's beliefs e.g. education and awareness campaigns highlighting practical benefits, like savings or health improvements.

Three crucial insights emerge from the survey findings for policymakers. Firstly, economic aspects drive people's concern about climate change. Secondly, skepticism exists, especially among less educated individuals relying on traditional information sources. Lastly, even concerned individuals might not act due to inconvenience or lifestyle changes. Policymakers should focus on removing barriers and offering economic incentives to encourage active participation in climate action.


Juan D. Barón

Senior Economist, Education Global Practice, World Bank Group

Saher Asad

Economist, South Asia

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