Majorities in most countries optimistic we will make environmental progress in the coming decades

While a deal may be emerging at the Rio+20 sustainable development conference, it is already being criticized as inadequate to address pressing global challenges, particularly in terms of environmental protection and mitigating climate change. The inability of political leaders to agree to radical policies—changes that could prove unpalatable to their electorates in the midst of economic crisis—is often cited as a reason for the failure of recent UN summits to meet expectations.
Nonetheless, the latest GlobeScan public attitudes tracking suggests that most citizens around the world remain optimistic that progress on environmental protection will be made over the next two decades—and those in the world’s major emerging powers are significantly more optimistic than many of their developed-world counterparts.
Summit hosts Brazil, and China, emerge as the most bullish about the prospects of leaders making environmental progress in the decades to come (77% optimistic in both cases, with 35% very optimistic in Brazil). Emerging economic powers Indonesia and Mexico are not far behind. Among developed economies, Germans are the most optimistic (67%), followed by Americans (62%)—despite the US administration being widely seen as an obstacle to a more far-reaching agreement at Rio.
While optimists are also in the majority in the UK, Canada, and France, two in five or more are pessimistic in each of countries. However, the only country with a majority of pessimists is Greece—in keeping with the very downbeat worldview apparent in our recent polling there. This suggests that, overall, electorates may be more willing to accept a switch to environmentally sustainable policies than is sometimes assumed.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.