Poll: British public think white people are most impacted by climate change

The British public think that white people around the world are the most affected ethnic group from the ravages of climate change, despite the fact that the most impacted regions are in poorer countries in the global South.

The Savanta ComRes poll, commissioned by the charity Christian Aid, revealed that twice as many British adults think that White people across the world are the most vulnerable ethnic group to the negative impacts of climate change (31%) than Black people (15%).

This suggests that despite the Black Lives Matter movement raising awareness about racial injustice, there is a lack of understanding among the British public about who really suffers from climate change. 

The poll also included a sample of 500 Black British Christians, a community which has never been surveyed before regarding their attitudes, experiences and perspectives on climate change. 

The results showed that Black British Christians feel more informed about climate change than the public at large, are more likely to make low carbon lifestyle choices, but feel the climate movement isn’t racially diverse enough.

  • Two thirds (66%) of Black British Christians feel they know at least a fair amount about climate change, compared to half (49%) of the British public.
  • Black Christians who were born in a country more vulnerable to climate change are more likely than those born in the UK or born in a less vulnerable country to say they know at least a fair amount about climate change (75% vs. 65% vs. 64% respectively).
  • Black Christians are twice as likely as the general public to make lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint or engage in campaigns or protests. These include them being more likely to take eco-friendly forms of travel (18% vs 9%), installing solar panels (8% vs 4%) or buying an electric car (8% vs 4%). 
  • More than half of Black Christians (51%) don’t think the climate movement is racially diverse enough, compared to 33% of the British public as a whole.

Chine McDonald, Christian Aid’s Head of Public Engagement, said:

“Concern about climate change has understandably shot up the agenda in recent years but it’s shocking that the British public don’t realise that it is Black and brown people around the world that are bearing the brunt of it.

“At its core, climate change is a story of racial inequality with the nations of the rich, largely White, global North creating a crisis which is causing suffering most acutely felt in the global South.

“Despite Black and brown people being disproportionately affected by climate change around the world, the climate movement is often represented and led by White people. 

“These findings challenge the perception that concerns around climate change are largely the preserve of White people. It is clear that Black Christians are a very engaged and informed community when it comes to understanding these issues and have a lot to offer the climate campaign movement.”

Dr Rosemarie Mallett, Archdeacon of Croydon, said:

“These results are astounding. Black Christians are much more aware that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect Black and brown people around the world compared to the British public.  

“The findings show that people of global majority heritage know and understand the challenge the world is facing. It also shows that such people don’t know how to get involved, do not see enough people like themselves involved, or would get involved if their church was more engaged.  Hopefully this research will help inform how more people of global majority heritage can take actions for climate justice.”

Rev Alton Bell, Senior Pastor at Wembley Family Church, said:

“This study has shown that Black Christians are aware of this issue but seldom have their concerns heard or articulated. From my perspective, climate injustice is a product of the industrialisation of the world, which in turn is a product of the enslavement of people of African heritage. The legacy of these actions still impacts Black and brown people most, and it is they who live in the global South.  If this research can help inspire those from the global South and convince those in the industrial countries to take action, then this will allow the earth to breathe again.”

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana, Pastor at Woolwich Central Baptist Church, said:

This data raises the issue of why we are not visible when it comes to government policies and public discussions on climate change? The effect is that while the problem appears to be brown, the advocates are usually white.  It is the poorer countries in the world that suffer more the effects of climate disasters, therefore we need everyone at the table.

“While animal conservation, protection of endangered species and our environment are all important in their own right, my approach to climate justice is the brown agenda, that is, ecological degradation on people and not the green agenda.”

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