Climate change the ‘biggest worry’ for people in Germany

According to a new Forsa poll, fears about climate change are one of the most common sources of worry for Germans - followed by the war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.

Power plant in Bavaria
Steam rises from a nuclear power plant in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

According to the opinion survey conducted at the beginning of November, 59 percent of Germans are worried that climate change will have an increasingly frequent and stronger impact on everyday life – for example, through extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Just over half – or 53 percent – were worried that the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine would spread to other countries or even lead to a third world war. Meanwhile, 52 were worried that their own financial situation will be worsened by the high cost of electricity and energy products.

Following the attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines earlier this year, 51 percent of respondents said they feared that cyberattacks could hit other parts of Germany’s critical infrastructure in the future.

Alongside high energy prices, the general cost of living was also a concern for many, with 44 percent saying they worried about their financial health and the soaring cost of groceries.

Finally, 42 percent were kept awake by the prospect that Germany could run out of gas for households and businesses this winter. Germany managed to fill its gas storage facilities to 100 percent ahead of the heating season, but experts have warned that reducing consumption will still be necessary.

READ ALSO: Majority of Germans worried about ‘major war in Europe’

No pandemic fears

The latest survey marks a noticeable shift in public opinion since 2020 and 2021, when the Covid pandemic was still a dominant fear in people’s minds. 

Since then, climate fears, the war in Ukraine, and the cost of living appear have taken over as the biggest topics troubling the population. 

The Forsa poll was commissioned by civil servants’ association DBB, who warned that the public were losing trust in the protective function of the state. 

Ursula Silberbach, who is currently seeking re-election as chair of DBB, expressed alarm at the results.

“I think neither the traffic light coalition nor the opposition have understood how serious the situation really is,” she told DPA.

The union leader, whose organisation represents public service workers, called for a special fund and investment plan to improve the infrastructure and equipment of public service. 

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Germany’s power supply secure ‘even with earlier coal exit’

Germany's electricity supply during this decade is secure even if the country were to bring its coal exit forward to 2030, according to a government-commissioned report on Wednesday.

Germany's power supply secure 'even with earlier coal exit'

The Federal Network Agency found that Germany’s power needs can be met “at all times” between 2025 and 2031 if the country follows through on plans to massively ramp up renewables and expand the energy grid.

“This will also be the case if energy consumption rises significantly because of new consumers such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, and the coal phase-out takes place by 2030,” the report said.

Europe’s biggest economy is speeding up its green energy transition after Russia’s war in Ukraine sent gas and electricity prices soaring and left Berlin scrambling to diversify supplies.

READ ALSO: Energy prices could double long-term in Germany, utilities companies warn

To help compensate for the shortfall in Russian gas deliveries, the government even restarted mothballed coal-fired power plants.

But Economy Minister Robert Habeck — from the ecologist Green party — has repeatedly said the measure was temporary and that Germany remained committed to quitting dirty fossil fuels.

The government aims to bring forward Germany’s coal exit to 2030, but has faced pushback from several eastern states that prefer to stick to the previous 2038 deadline.

Habeck on Wednesday acknowledged that there was “no agreement” on the end-date yet.

By 2030, the government wants 80 percent of Germany’s electricity to come from wind and solar power.

Berlin has pledged to cut red tape for installing wind turbines to meet the ambitious target, but observers say the pace is still too slow.

“We’re working on all fronts to become faster, more efficient,” Habeck told reporters in Berlin.

As part of the shift away from fossil fuels, the government also plans to only allow new gas-fired power plants if they can be converted to run on clean hydrogen.

“Gas is OK for the transition phase, but we need to get away from gas and switch to hydrogen power as soon as possible,” Habeck said.

READ ALSO: Is now a good time to switch energy providers in Germany?