Heightened public interest in climate change in China

Signal of change / Heightened public interest in climate change in China

By Marta Melvin / 22 Nov 2017

Just a few days ago, so many viewers tuned in to watch Blue Planet II's latest episode on China's Tencent Video online channel that the country's internet slowed down to a crawl. It is believed that around 80 million viewers have watched the first two episodes of Blue Planet's sequel so far, dwarfing the UK's equally brilliant ratings of 14 million viewers each. The 12 November episode explored the ocean's coral reefs, revealing that almost half of the world's reefs have been affected by bleaching, threatening their existence.

This heightened interest in climate change by the Chinese public is supported by the findings from a recent survey released on conducted by the Center for China Climate Change Communication (CCCCC). CCCCC is the first think tank dedicated to climate change communications research and practice in developing countries, and its survey showed that 94 percent of respondents support China's implementation of the Paris Agreement, while 96.8 percent agree the country should participate in international cooperation to tackle climate change.

Covering 4,025 ordinary people from China's 332 prefecture-level administrative units and four centrally-controlled municipalities, it provided a comprehensive picture of public understanding of climate change in terms of causes, influence, methods of response, government policies and communication effect, etc. More than 90 percent of the respondents support the central government's measures in mitigation and adaption, indicating China's commitment to addressing climate change is responding to public wishes. 

So what?

Fears about climate change are great in the Asia-Pacific region, and China in particular, which is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise, droughts and storms.

A combniation of Chinese civil society, international and national media pressure and public health concerns have been helping spur the Chinese government into action on climate change. In a survey in 2015 by the UN found that the China leads the world in public support for government action on climate change.

So, at the same time that Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017, China was announcing its continued commitment and deepening cooperation with the EU on climate change during this year’s EU-China summit taking place in Brussels.

China is to replace the US as the emerging global leader in the fight against climate change - just as the US joins the ranks of Syria and Nicaragua.

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What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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