Climate concern falls sharply, but public remains conflicted

gsr10 6bt track
Public concern about climate change has been on the up since the late 1990s. Fifteen years ago, those who saw it as a very serious environmental issue were significantly outnumbered by those who worried about more tangible and immediate environmental concerns—water pollution and air pollution among them—but by 2009 climate concern had substantially caught up with other environmental worries. Contrary to what many expected, climate concern continued to rise as recession hit, but the last year has seen a sharp fall in concern, according to the most recent GlobeScan tracking across 14 countries. The widely-perceived failure of the Copenhagen summit and the storm around the “Climategate” emails are likely to have been instrumental.
But the picture is more complex than it first appears. Concern has fallen sharply in the developed West, but is stable or rising in the BRICs. In some countries, like the USA, even if climate concern is down, worries about other environmental issues we tested are on the rise. Those who ascribe climate change to natural causes are up—but so are the numbers who blame it on human activity. All this suggests public opinion remains volatile—and may well swing again in response to the next Hurricane Katrina, tsunami or similar catastrophe, when fingers will again be pointed at the impact of the changing climate.
Finding from GlobeScan Radar Wave 2, 2010
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.