A new survey by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEAI), to mark the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, found just 49% of the population believe climate change is a major problem.
However, the study also discovered 53% of citizens believe that they have a role to play in tackling climate change, putting themselves ahead of businesses, environmental groups and local authorities.
The general public were found to significantly underestimate the contribution of the residential sector to energy-related emissions, while overestimating the contribution of industry.
The survey also reported seven out of 10 people say energy was an important consideration when buying a house or car.
Six out of 10 believe it was important for kitchen appliances and lights.
When asked about the actions of the Government in trying to reduce dependency on imported energy, 77% said they would favour the development of renewables, followed by promoting advanced research in new energy technologies (53%).
The survey showed Irish people have a good understanding of where we get our energy from — predominantly fossil fuels — and they anticipate a massive swing towards renewables in the future, mainly wind, hydro, and solar energies.
Commenting on the findings, the head of low carbon technologies at SEAI, Eimear Cotter, said there was a long way to go in tackling the public perception around the issue of climate change.
“The scientific analysis is indisputable and the need for urgent action is clear.
“What this research suggests, however, is that we still have to convince half of the population of the seriousness of climate change.
“Increased awareness will mean we can have an informed debate about our options and choices that we need to make if we are to take fossil fuels and carbon out of our energy system.”
However, Ms Cotter said the research indicated that perceptions about climate change have changed in the past two decades.
Forum Big Read: 15-17