Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Public opinion and the environment

Last Thursday Blair Gibbs posted the following graph to the TPA blog, taken from a DEFRA poll conducted every five years:

It shows that the number of people who rate the environment as an issue that they think the Government should be dealing with is actually in decline. This suggests that, while people will say they'd like to deal with climate change if asked directly, it is not a priority and not really on their minds. This suggests that they will not be willing to pay the kind of price Monbiot et. al. want them to.

However, the numbers citing the environment as a priority could be misleadingly high. Those rating the "environment" as an important issue quite likely do not mean the environment in the Gaia, global warming, sense. This AEI poll (PDF) shows that in the US global warming is only the 8th most important environmental issue to most Americans. Opinion may be different in the UK but a similar issue, "the environment" doesn't mean "global warming" to most people, probably exists.

While I'm on the subject of the DEFRA poll, this graph is depressing:

It concerns the number of people who have heard of and are willing to buy 'environmentally-friendly' products. Given that Fair Trade implies subsidising people producing over-produced crops it is inherently wasteful and even if it has some kind of dubious environmental provision that is highly unlikely to outweigh the environmental cost of unnecessary food production. That DEFRA lumps fair trade in as an environmentally-friendly product suggests it has a rather wooly understanding of these things.

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