January 20, 2011
Climate Concerns Dampen as Economic Woes Worsen
An article by E&E News yesterday reported that "Climate change has all but fallen off the map as a motivator for a change in behavior for most people in the United Kingdom." According to experts and opinion polls, "its place has been taken by the lingering recession."
The light bulbs are being changed for more efficient ones, but relatively little else changes in the lifestyles of a U.K. population that is increasingly skeptical about climate change. Meanwhile, consumers face sharply rising energy bills that experts say will only get higher as costly renewables and new nuclear come online.
According to a recent opinion poll by Globescan, only 43 percent of UK citizens consider climate change to be a serious threat today, down from a 59 percent high just a few years ago. The UK Energy Saving Trust did a poll in which 41 percent of the population declared they were "bored" with climate change, up from 27 percent five years ago.
These findings re-confirm our long-standing observation that environmental concern is a luxury good -- one which waxes and wanes with the economic tide. There are both philosophical and economic reasons for this, but the bottom-line is fairly simple: present concerns that directly impact people's lives simply outweigh future concerns that do not have such a direct impact.
Together with a shattering new analysis by David Owen in the New Yorker, this appears to be bad news for energy efficiency activists.
Read the full E&E article here (subscription required).