26 October 2012
Climate Change: It's the Economy, Stupid
This prompted David Attenborough, one of the UK's leading naturalists, to speculate on what, if anything would change the US public's minds. He said it would have to be a disaster, clearly linked to global warming.
A related report in Foreign Policy by Kate Sheppard, says, its not that people don't think the climate is changing, but that they do not have the capacity to worry about it that much due to the global economic downturn.
She cites a 2012 paper by Scruggs and Benegal in Global Environmental Change which poses the question: "Declining public concern about climate change: Can we blame the great recession?" Their answer is yes.
They use 3 data sources for their regression work (fitting lines to data and then figuring out if there is causation): (1) pooled averages from US opinion surveys from 3 different organisations from the past 15 years, (2) individual level responses from PEW surveys and (3) data on country level opinions about climate change from EuroBarometer data between 2008-2009.
They find plenty of evidence correlating unemployment with belief and concern that global warming is happening and is a serious threat: stronger than media effects and stronger than local weather anomalies--although church going and a very conservative ideology had stronger associations than unemployment. But they can't really test for causation with their small sample sizes.
They suggest that when the economy picks up, more capacity can be directed to addressing climate change. Ironically, the pick up in the economy will accelerate emissions--there is no counter cyclical force on attention to climate change.
It is clear that when economic growth picks up, we need to be ready to strike while the iron--and the earth--is hot.
Posted by Lawrence Haddad at 09:44