Almost half of all Europeans fear climate change more than losing a job or of a terrorist attack, a study by the European Investment Bank (EIB) showed on Thursday as EU lawmakers declared a "climate emergency".
The symbolic vote by lawmakers was designed to pressure for action against global warming at an upcoming United Nations summit..
The EIB survey of 30,000 respondents from 30 countries, including China and the United States, showed 47 per cent of Europeans saw climate change as the number one threat in their lives, above unemployment, large scale migration and concerns about terrorism.
"European citizens are highly concerned about climate change and its impact on their everyday life and future," said Emma Navarro, EIB vice-president responsible for climate action and the environment.
"Interestingly, many of them are optimistic about the possibility to reverse it. Unfortunately, science says otherwise. We have one shot at limiting global warming and mitigating its effects," she said.
The EIB, owned by European Union governments, is the world's largest international public lending institution and has the task of financing climate-change related investment that is a priority for the new European Commission.
The survey, the first of four planned by the EIB, showed the level of concern about climate change was even higher in China than the EU, with 73 per cent of respondents seeing it as the biggest threat to society, compared to 39 per cent in the United States, where most people worried more about access to health services.
The study also showed that 41 per cent of young Europeans between the age of 15 and 29, especially from southern countries like Spain, Greece and France thought they would have to move to another country because of the changing climate.
"Overall, 82 per cent of Europeans report that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives, a perception that goes up to 98 per cent in China and 76 per cent in the United States," the study said.
The incoming European Commission, which will start on 1 December, wants to make the whole of the European Union an area that is neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 after slashing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. It still requires the consent of all EU governments before such a target becomes binding, but some countries which still heavily depend on coal like Poland, oppose such ambition.