Is Technology the Answer to Climate Change?

Global Societal Trends on Trust, Climate, and Technology ahead of Davos 2024

New technology is rapidly changing our economies and societies. At the same time, there are growing existential concerns around environmental threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss. One of the key themes at Davos 2024 is AI as a driving force for the economy and society, exploring how we can use AI to benefit all and help address imminent sustainability challenges, all while managing the potential societal risks. 

GlobeScan’s recent global public opinion research shows that the public across all regions is largely supportive of technology to help solve climate change – and many are increasingly looking to Big Tech as a force for good. 

The tech industry has an opportunity to help lead us toward a low-carbon and nature-positive future in ways that avoid challenges in societal adoption of new innovation by working in partnership with government, academia and civil society to create a robust trust equation to ensure societal acceptance of business-led technological innovation.

The survey of nearly 30,000 people in 30 countries and territories was conducted in July and August of 2023. Approximately 1,000 people in each country took part in the global study that asked them about their attitudes, opinions, and behaviors around a range of important issues and challenges facing the world.

Key insights from the report:

  • There is growing belief among people globally over the past decade that the benefits of modern technology are greater than its risks. Proportions agreeing that the benefits of emerging technology outweigh its risks have increased from two-thirds in 2016 (65%) to three-quarters in 2023 (75%). 
  • There is relatively low concern about the potential dangers of AI. One-quarter of people (26%) say that the dangers of AI are very serious; in contrast, over twice as many (64%) feel the same about climate change.
  • People increasingly see technology as the key to solving climate change. Two-thirds of people across the world believe that “new technology will solve the problem of climate change, requiring only minor changes in human thinking and individual behavior” (up 15 points across 16 countries tracked since 2011). 
  • Views of the tech sector as a responsible societal actor have grown significantly in the past decade. Net ratings of technology companies fulfilling their responsibilities to society (positive perceptions minus negative perceptions) have increased from +18 in 2013 to +32 in the past year.
  • Nevertheless, trust in business remains relatively low and there has been a strong trend over the past two decades of increasing support for governments to step in and regulate companies to act more in the interests of society.