A recent public opinion survey of Canadian and American citizens confirms that, despite the warnings of science, climate change is not a major concern to a majority in both countries. The surveys confirm that a majority agree that global temperatures have increased, but a substantial number in both countries question the extent of human contribution to this increase.
Contrast those conclusions with a recent survey of citizens of the European Union. According to a special Eurobarometer opinion poll on climate change published recently, nine in ten Europeans consider climate change a serious problem. A large majority – 69% – believe it a ‘very serious’ problem and 21% a ‘fairly serious’ problem. Only 9% do not consider it a serious problem.
Apart from the survey, many Canadians think that measures to reduce climate change will negatively impact the economy. Attitudes in Europe are very different. Four out of five people in the European Union recognise that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently can boost the economy and employment. European citizens also overwhelmingly support renewable energy.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso commented on the survey. He noted that European citizens recognised there was no need to make a choice between good economics and climate protection: cost-effective climate action is indeed good economics.
Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, was equally positive about the survey findings. She said:
”The poll confirms that a clear majority of Europeans expect their politicians to tackle the climate challenge now. The citizens understand that climate change did not go away while their governments were busy handling the economic crisis. It is not either growth and competitiveness or the climate. It is both, it has to be both. I hope that EU leaders will listen and act accordingly at the European Council later this month when they will discuss our 2030 climate and energy proposals”
The differences in climate change policy are striking. One could say that more than an ocean separates continental Europe from North America.