Environmental concerns among citizens around the world have been falling since 2009 and have now reached twenty-year lows, according to a multi-country GlobeScan poll. Asked how serious they consider each of six environmental problems to be — air pollution, water pollution, species loss, automobile emissions, fresh water shortages and climate change — fewer people now consider them “very serious” than at any time since tracking began twenty years ago.
A total of 22,812 people from 22 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone as part of the GlobeScan Radar annual tracking poll during the second half of 2012. Twelve of the represented countries have been regularly polled on environmental issues since 1992.
“Scientists report that evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever—but our data shows that economic crisis and a lack of political leadership mean that the public are starting to tune out,” says GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller. “Those who care about mobilizing public opinion on the environment need to find new messages in order to reinvigorate a stalled debate.”
Climate change is the only exception, where concern was lower from 1998 to 2003 than it is now. 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 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.
Despite the steep fall in environmental concern over the past three years, majorities still consider most of these 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 one in two (49%) viewing it as “very serious.”