Just over half of respondents in the European Union’s 27 member states mentioned climate change as one of the world’s most serious problems, and 20 percent felt it is the single most serious problem.
Amid a deepening sovereign debt crisis that is pushing the global banking system to the edge, Europeans are more concerned about climate change than about the economic situation, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey, assigned by the European Commission.
Just over half of respondents in the European Union’s 27 member states mentioned climate change as one of the world’s most serious problems, and 20 percent felt it is the single most serious problem. In ranked order, climate change came second only to poverty, hunger, and lack of drinking water (28 percent) — which remained the priority concern for most citizens across Europe, mentioned by 64 percent in total — with the state of the economy (16 percent), international terrorism (11 percent), the availability of energy (7 percent) and others trailing behind.
How Have Opinions Changed Since 2009?
The overall pattern in the June 2011 survey is consistent with that seen in 2009, when poverty, hunger, and lack of drinking water also topped the opinion polls as the most serious global problem, again followed by climate change. Though there is considerable variation in how concerned citizens are about climate change between member states, the survey shows that these worries have increased throughout most of Europe when compared with survey results from two years ago.
The faction of EU citizens who believe there are economic benefits to fighting climate change and improving energy efficiency has also risen, from 63 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2011. Not surprisingly, overall attitudes toward climate change also influenced opinions on the economic benefits of action, according to the survey.
At the same time, the majority of respondents saw tackling global warming as the responsibility mainly of national governments, the EU, and businesses.
Nations Where Economy Topped Climate
There were nations where the economic situation overshadowed climate concerns, however. The state of the economy was the most urgent problem — along with poverty, hunger, and lack of drinking water — in the Czech Republic, Italy, Cyprus and Greece, among others.
Not surprising, since Greece, in particular, is facing a severe debt crisis. The 2011 deficit is projected to rise above 8.5 percent of Greece’s GDP, and the nation is desperately trying to stay afloat with the help of bail-outs by the big European economies, which are also struggling to keep other debt-laden countries from the same financial outcome. With the fate of the common European currency in question, EU leaders announced on Monday that they had given themselves a deadline of two weeks to agree on a comprehensive deal to tackle the eurozone debt crisis.
Read more details in the original report.
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.