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Public Environmental Concern at ’20-Year Low’

The economic crisis and a lack of governmental leadership on green issues has driven concern about the environment among citizens around the world to 20-year lows, according to a multi-country poll by research consultancy GlobeScan.

Participants in GlobeScan Radar were asked how serious they consider each of six environmental problems: air pollution, water pollution, species loss, automobile emissions, fresh water shortages, and climate change. On five of the six, fewer people now consider the issue “very serious” than at any time since tracking began 20 years ago. Concerns have been falling since 2009, the poll shows.

Concern about air and water pollution, as well as biodiversity, is significantly below where it was even in the 1990s. Many of the sharpest falls have taken place in the past two years, the poll shows.

But despite the steep fall in environmental concern over the past three years, majorities still consider most of the environmental problems to be “very serious.” Water pollution is viewed as the most serious environmental problem among those tested, rated by 58 percent as “very serious.” Climate change is rated second least serious out of the six, with 49 percent viewing it as “very serious.”

Climate change was the only issue that did not hit a record low – concern was lower from 1998 to 2003 than it is now. But the perceived seriousness of climate change has fallen particularly sharply since the unsuccessful UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. Climate concern dropped first in industrialized countries, but this year’s figures show that concern has now fallen in major developing economies such as Brazil and China as well.

Scientists report that evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever – but Globescan says its data shows that the economic crisis and a lack of political leadership mean that the public are starting to tune out.

Those who care about mobilizing public opinion on the environment need to find new messages in order to “reinvigorate a stalled debate,” Globescan says.

The findings are drawn from a survey of citizens across 22 countries. A total of 22,812 people were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone during the second half of 2012. Twelve of these countries have been regularly polled on environmental issues since 1992.

According to a poll by GlobeScan and BSR released towards the end of 2012, human rights, workers’ rights and climate change are the top three sustainability priorities for companies for 2013. Company executives said their primary challenges for climate sustainability include effectively coordinating business units throughout the value chain, establishing an effective strategy, scaling up projects globally and gaining resource commitments from senior management.

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5 thoughts on “Public Environmental Concern at ’20-Year Low’

  1. For decades, environmental change has been disturbingly evident, and of utmost concern to me. Climate change, pollution, loss of species diversity, and fresh water availability and quality are not discrete issues, but part of anthropogenic environmental damage. Frankly, unless we organize to avert serious climate change, issues such as politics and the economy are secondary. Survival will be all that matters.

  2. No wonder why too many U.S. cities/states are increasingly become dirtier, and many young people–the profiled litterers/dumpers, “most prone/willing to illegally dump and litter,” have no training nor clue how their illicit behaviors affect quality of life for all, for years to come.

  3. I find this very curious. This is most definately not gone away from the top 10 “issues” capable of making population freak out… ie., obvious in the reporting, frequency of, and massive scope of degradation, depletion of resources from our “house” we inhabit, yet concern is lowest in 20 years? What gives? But “climate change” has increased…… In there such a disconnect between this cause/effect relationship because there is little effort in educating people in the science of it? Or a sense helplessness (hopelessness in my case) to change anything because much is way beyond our control…. There are certain “entities” that rule the world. We the people are just ants in the way of they’re one dimensional agenda to use, abuse and consume.

  4. There are plenty of visionary leaders out there, but what the environment needs is better marketing! If the same sort of money was spent on environmental marketing as is wasted on half the rubbish we find on our supermarket shelves, it would start ‘walking out the door’ and into mainstream consciousness. Scare tactics just don’t work anymore, we need branding, celebrities and all the other gimmicky trappings that make things ‘cool’ for consumers to get engaged!

  5. People ars hurting in this econlmy and if your choice is food on the table or the environment guess which one wins. And politicians know that so they move away from those item that people do not want to hear about or care about. Those of us fortunate enough to have good jobs and a steady paycheck sometimes forget those that have less. Many people I know are concerned that that they may still be laid off – industry is still cutiing heads, no or low increase in pay and when that is on your mind are you going to worry about how green you are or if you recycle your bottles today? And there is noway you are going to support anything that does not bring jobs. Ok I hear you say green bring jobs – really? Minimum wage jobs mostly and if you live on the east or west coasts – where majority of people live and majority of waste generated, you cannot live on minimum wage. They sold solar as the savaior for jobs and savings – without subsidies its a 10 to 15 year return – who is going to take that gamble with their money?

    I do not think a marketing campaign is what is needed. I think the whole green or be damned attitude of some forget that just 15 years ago it is likely you did not recycle either. What is needed is reminders because people forget but the it doesnot suprise me that it is at a 20 year low – people do not feel good about their lives, they worry about if they can ever retire, if they wil have a job next week, will they loose their home, cannot sell my home as I owe too much, if their kids will ever own a home, will they be able to afford medical insurance, etc – and yes worry about environment but it is way down on the list. Why should it surpise us

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