Are Americans more worried about population than climate change?
Elisabeth Rosenthal’s big piece on climate change in the Sunday New York Times — “Where Did Global Warming Go?” — has been discussed by bloggers and dismantled by Joe Romm. But in that flurry of MSM explication, one interesting tidbit from the story was missed:
When the British polling firm Ipsos Mori asked Americans this past summer to list their three most pressing environmental worries, “global warming/climate change” garnered only 27 percent, behind even “overpopulation.”
Rosenthal’s phrasing is telling — a critical environmental issue is generating even less concern than population!? — but not surprising. What is surprising is that 29 percent of American respondents actually listed “overpopulation” as a major environmental problem. Population was a hot topic in the ’60s and ’70s, but hasn’t been on the radar even of many self-proclaimed enviros since then.
The Ipsos MORI poll asked, “What are the three most important environmental issues facing your country today?” and offered 15 options to choose from. Among Americans, overpopulation was the fourth most popular answer, and climate change was fifth.
What ranked higher? This is depressing: “Dealing with the amount of waste we generate” came in above both climate and population, with 41 percent naming it as one of our top three challenges. People, listen up: A perceived shortage of landfill space is not on par with the utter climate chaos we can already see unfolding around the globe, or the need to feed and provide a decent quality of life to a population poised to increase by more than 2 billion people over the next 40 years.
Americans’ top two green concerns, each named by 50 percent of respondents, were “future energy sources and supplies” and “depletion of natural resources.” A generous interpretation might be that voicing concern about energy sources is another way of voicing concern about climate change; a non-generous interpretation would be that Americans just don’t like the specter of running out of stuff.
But hey, at least climate and population were in the top five in the U.S. and “over-packaging of consumer goods” was not — which is more than Poland can say.
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