There is an increasing evidence that the existing public policies and consumption behaviour is leading to global warming , climate change,air pollution , water pollution and other adverse effects. Despite this , march towards unsustainable development continues unabated .
What should be done?If we aim to win the battle for sustainable development , we have no choice but to change the attitudes and behaviour of millions of people towards environment .Although environmental problems are of global concern , the public attitudes towards ways of dealing with them is different for different nations.
Two studies conducted in this regard, one called Climate Change in Indian mind , conducted in 2011 by Yale Project on Climate change ,and the other conducted in 2014, called: “ Attitudes Towards Environmental Issues:Empirical Evidence in Europe and the United States”by Darina Peycheva, Jana Pötzschke, Theron Delano Hall and Hans Rattinger.. The study on India was conducted in November and December 2011 by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication in collaboration with Globescan ,with Principal Investigators Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D. ,Yale university and Jagdish Thaker ,Ph.D.
research team from George
Mason University , Globescan
Incorporated and C-Voter conducted a national survey of 4,031 Indian adults ,using a combined urban
and rural sample .Overall , the survey cum study gave , among others , the following
important findings regarding attitudes
of Indian public : Yale
Global warming awareness and beliefs:
1.Only 7% of respondents said they knew a lot about global warming , while 41% had either never heard of it , or said “I don’t know”.
2.When given a short definition of global warming , however , 72% said that they believe it is happening .
3. 56% said it is caused mostly by human activities , while 31% said it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
4. 61% said they are worried by global warming and 67% said the issue is important to them personally.
5. Large majorities said global warming will harm future generations (67%), plant and animal species (67%), people in
India (66%), people in their own
community (62%) and themselves and their own family(57%).
6. 50% said that they have already personally experienced the effects of global warming , while 43% said that global warming is already harming or will harm people in
India within the next ten years.
The above findings indicate the need to make Indian public more aware about global warming , its causes, harmful effects.Support for climate and energy policies:
1.41% of respondents said the Government of India should be doing more to address global warming.
2.54% said that
India should be making a large or moderate-scale effort to
reduce global warming even if it has
large or moderate economic costs.
3. 38% said that India should reduce its own emissions of the gases that cause global warming immediately , without waiting for other countries, 18% said that India should reduce its own emissions only if rich countries go first, 13% said that India should reduce its own emissions only if all other countries of the world reduce their emissions at the same time , and 13% said that India should not reduce its emissions under any circumstances.
4.70% favoured a national programme to teach Indians about global warming.
5.675 favoured a national effort to help local communities build check dams to increase local water supplies;
6. A majority of respondents favoured a variety of policies to waste less fuel , water and energy even if increased costs;
7. A majority of respondents said that environmental protection either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (35%) or has no effect on economic growth or jobs(16%).
8.53% said that protecting the environment is more important , even if it reduces economic growth, while 28% said that economic growth is more important, even if it leads to environmental problems.
The above findings indicate that Indian Public expects a lot more to be done by Government of India for making policies to address global warming and other environmental issues.It should make policies to protect environment even if these reduce economic growth.
Trust in different messengers:
1. Scientists were the most trusted sources of information about global warming (73%) , followed by news media (69%), environmental organisations (68%) ,and their own family and friends (67%).
2. Government and religious leaders were trusted by about half the respondents.
This indicates increasing role of scientists, media, NGO’s and governments in dealing with environmental issues, in Indian context.
The other study related to attitudes towards environment in Europe and the
United States by Darina Peycheva
and others came out with more specific
findings as below:
1.Which environmental issues are of the greatest concern at local level, the study shows that the issues are different in different countries.However , if we try to point out the main environmental concern in the world , it will be pollution of rivers , lakes and oceans –equally high number of Americans (94%), Europeans(95%) and Turkish people (98%) identified these as very serious or somewhat serious.
2.Attitudes of Elites vs. Attitudes of general public:
Elites have a different perspective on the importance of environmental issues than their respective public. Only 10% of the surveyed American elites define climate change as the biggest challenge to transatlantic community.
3.General attitudes towards environmental issues.:
The number of those willing to cut their standard of living or to pay higher prices or taxes in order to protect the environment is extremely limited.47% Americans are more likely to pay much higher prices to protect the environment that Europeans (27%).Further 70% Americans favour paying 15 dollars per month per household in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The Role of main stakeholders in the area of environmental issues:
4.There is a strong consensus that government should pass laws to make ordinary people protect the environment.For Europeans , it is mainly the national government that should be held responsible for fighting climate change.Americans and Europeans tend to agree that climate change can only be addressed effectively at the international level.78% of European citizens and 53% Americans share this view.
5. Policies and instruments applied in the area of environmental issues:
Almost 90% of Europeans agree that the EU should urgently put new policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emission by at least 20% by 2020.
Increasing energy efficiency in EU by 20% by 2020 is supported by almost 60% of Europeans. Increasing the share of renewable energy in the EU by 20% by 2020 is supported by 56% 0f Europeans.60% of Europeans tend to support the statement that the share of nuclear energy should be reduced as it poses safety problems like nuclear waste , or the danger of accidents. The Europeans point out that small businesses and households should receive financial support to make their energy consumption more efficient.
It is important that we in India get more such surveys and research conducted by universities of repute and share the results with policy makers , media , NGOs, , educational institutions and common citizens so that better support for meeting the challenges posed by environmental issues is created in the state and in the country.
(This article was published in the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow in its July 15,2016 issue.)