GaiaVesterålen: Opinion poll shows great climate scepticism in Vesterålen

31 October 2023

54% of people in Vesterålen agree that climate change is man-made. This is shown in a new opinion poll conducted by Norfakta under the auspices of GaiaVesterålen with national partners in the RESIST project (Museum Nord/GaiaVesterålen, Vesterålsrådet, Andfjord Salmon and Sintef). Vesterålen thus differs markedly from the rest of the country, where similar polls show that only 25% of the Norwegian population does not believe in anthropogenic climate change. 

“It is surprising that Vesterålen differs significantly from the national average in perceptions of climate. At the same time, I am glad that so many people have responded to the survey, because this gives us new and useful information about opinions in the Vesterål community,” says Karl-Erling Norlund, leader of Vesterålsrådet and mayor of Sortland municipality. 

A total of 739 people over the age of 18 from the municipalities of Hadsel, Sortland, Andøy, Bø and Øksnes responded to the survey from Norfakta. Of the 739 respondents, only 54% agree with the statement “Climate change is mainly caused by human activity”, while 22% respond that they completely disagree with the statement. In other European countries, however, belief in anthropogenic climate change is far right. In Ireland, the figure is 81% and in Italy at 82% for the same statement, according to a major EU study that looked at citizens’ attitudes to climate research and climate change in six European countries.

In Vesterålen, about 4 out of 10 are largely or very concerned about climate change in Norway, according to the new Norfakta poll commissioned by Museum Nord/GaiaVesterålen, Andfjord Salmon and Vesterålsrådet as part of their participation in the EU project RESIST. RESIST is a 5-year EU project led by SINTEF, and is about strengthening local communities’ climate adaptation for the future. 12 European regions are included, of which Vesterålen is the only one in Norway. 

“The results show the importance of focusing on concrete measures that can help equip us in the face of inevitable societal changes as a result of climate change in Vesterålen. In the RESIST project, Andfjord Salmon, together with Gaia Vesterålen and Vesterålsrådet, will help develop knowledge and tools that make it possible to predict and prevent critical consequences as a result of climate change,” says Stig Pettersen, public affairs officer at the land-based fish farm Andfjord Salmon on Andøya. 

Think it’s useful to do something

Although only half of the people from Western Norway believe that climate change is man-made, just as many believe that it is not too late to do something about it and that their own behaviour and actions can make a difference. A total of 50% of the people surveyed disagreed with the statement “Climate change is out of control? It’s too late to do anything about it.” Furthermore, according to the poll, only 24% do not believe their own behaviour makes a difference in dealing with climate change. 

The NORFAKTA survey also showed that about 4 out of 10 people from Vesterålen disagree that it is difficult to do anything about climate change. 45% agreed with the statement ? I know what I can do to help prevent climate change because there is clear information/guidance on what people can do to help?. A surprising finding is that the lowest proportion agreeing with this statement is the youngest age group under 30 years. 

“It is very gratifying that many believe that it is actually possible to do something to stop climate change, and that the choices you make in your own life can make a difference. Through other projects, such as the Environmental Contract, we experience just that. There has been a fantastic response from Vesterålinger who wants to use everyday choices to make efforts for the environment”, says Ane Høyem, project manager at GaiaVesterålen.  

Research, innovation, knowledge sharing and technology are key to equipping climate-vulnerable regions for the changes ahead. The Norwegian partners in the RESIST project conducted the poll in Vesterålen to get an indication of Vesterålinger’s opinions and perceptions about climate change. Part of the purpose of the poll was to compare Vesterålingers’ attitudes to climate research and climate change with the rest of the country and other countries in Europe.  

“The answers underline the importance of RESIST’s mission, which is about how we talk about climate change in an understandable way and how we communicate measures that enable each of us to contribute to limiting or dealing with climate change,” concludes Karl-Erling Nordlund.

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