State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate matters, and most of the world agrees

Climate matters, and that’s not just the opinion of the Columbia Climate Center. Recent surveys in the US and overseas indicate that most people see climate change as a threat; even those that don’t consider it a serious problem agree that it is worth addressing.

In a recent survey of twelve countries, made by HSBC and five partners, almost half of the respondents identified climate change to be a bigger threat than the ongoing financial crisis. The Climate Confidence Monitor (report here) also includes a comparison with results from their first survey in 2007. News about the HSBC survey was picked up by The Guardian and the BBC.

One thousand people in each country, including developed (e.g. France, Canada, Germany and the US) and rapidly developing (e.g. China, India, Brazil and Malaysia) nations, showed a consistent level of concern and agreed that governments are not doing enough. Respondents felt that governments are emphasizing indirect actions, such as carbon trading and participating in international negotiations, when they should be enhancing renewable energy sources, halting deforestation, and conserving water and ecosystems.

Unexpectedly, respondents everywhere wanted their countries to reduce emissions in fair proportion to their contribution to global emissions: 62% and 72% of respondents in China and the US respectively said their countries should reduce emissions at least as much as other countries.

Generally respondents from developed nations were less worried about climate change, expressed less confidence that the people and organizations who should be doing something were actually doing it, and were much less optimistic that the challenge will be met than those from developing nations. However, the willingness to make a personal commitment to help reduce climate change was consistent among countries (ranging from about 20% to almost 50%), though it has gone down somewhat from the 2007 survey.

This is roughly consistent with the results of a survey of entrepreneurs that indicate that 61% feel that climate change is an important strategic concern.

The American Climate Values Survey made by EcoAmerica released early last month and discussed on The Nature Conservancy webpage focused on the attitudes and perceptions of over 1500 Americans. Although only 18% of respondents felt that climate change was real and a serious problem, a vast majority felt that it is worth reducing pollution for reasons of health (95%) and environment (93%), that manufacturing associated with renewable energies was a good source of jobs (82%) and such technologies were a way to save money (83%), and were interested in electric or hybrid cars (85%). Interestingly the divide between believers and skeptics is strongly correlated to political party, with 90% of Democrats affirming they are convinced global warming is happening versus 54% of Republicans.

The bottom line of the two broader surveys seems to be that most people believe that actions taken to reduce climate change are worthwhile, but that there is confusion about what actions to take. It will be necessary to educate the public about the role of international negotiations and policy decisions.

The Climate Change Conference is now ongoing in Poznan (Poland). Stay tuned here to learn more about the international negotiation process.

Where do you stand on the importance of climate change?

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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15 years ago

Obviously climate change is very real, and the laymen who deny it have probably been systematically pumped with filler informational garb from mass-media.

There is too much data to deny the thing, but no one talks about the data to your average Joe on channel 5 news at 10. And those that do, bash the scientists that say we’re in trouble.

Nobody wants to be in a bad mood after all.

We are so consumed with comfort that it is hard to imagine not having disposable cups, one season clothing, 5 pairs of nice black shoes.

Our comforts blind us, and our politicians prefer it that way.

Hopefully now that more and more average Joes read alternate news, watch new media, and talk to others about this, companies may begin considering a new way to operate. Maybe.

I’m still at a toss up between where the change needs to come from, the consumer driven corporations or the government policies. Its whoever decides that being greedy is really not very nice when it may cost them their livelihood.