Foreign Policy Blogs

The Ayes Have It

As I said in my inaugural post on March 5, the good news on climate change is that " the recognition of the terrible problem we've created is deepening and solutions are being actively sought."  People everywhere are tuned in to the issue.  Recent polls indicate that this is very much the case.  "Poll Finds Worldwide Agreement That Climate Change is a Threat" reads the release from, an arm of the Program on International Policy Attitudes.  The survey, released on March 14, was done with the venerable Chicago Council on Global Affairs and looked at attitudes on climate change in 17 countries, representing 55% of the world's population.  From Australia, where the support for the reality and the danger of global climate change was the strongest, to India, where it was the weakest, the heavy betting is that we have a "serious and pressing problem" on our hands.  I thought that one of the more compelling opinions expressed was on international trade:  a large preponderance of those polled said that environmental standards should be written into trade agreements. Some of those expressing this feeling were in countries where their governments have been resisting precisely this sort of approach.

A previous poll from these folks, from October 11, 2006, was headlined "World Publics Willing to Bear Costs of Combating Climate Change."  One of the interesting subtexts here was that consciousness of global warming as a threat has risen dramatically among Americans in the past couple of years.  The pollsters speculate that this may be largely due to the impact of Katrina and the other catastrophic storms that devastated Florida and the Gulf Coast in 2004 and 2005.  Another salient finding:  "Seventy percent of Americans say that the U.S. government should take part in the Kyoto efforts, despite the Bush administration's opposition to the treaty."  The Chinese and the Indian publics are also noted to be at odds with their official government line.  They want to see the problem addressed.  (By the way, there are links here to other fascinating polls on the subject of climate change, energy, and the environment.)

One of these, done last summer for the BBC by, has the provocative title, "Current Energy Use Seen to Threaten Environment, Economy, Peace."  The survey registers overwhelming support for renewable energy development and higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks.  Another significant item:  "There is relatively lukewarm support for more nuclear energy with just one-half favoring nuclear energy to reduce reliance on oil and coal." Disappointingly, only 37% strongly or somewhat favor increasing energy taxes.  Aussies, Brits, Kenyans and Indians show the strongest support for higher energy taxes and the Poles, Ukrainians, Russians and Brazilians show the least.

Another poll, by YouGov for the "Daily Telegraph" from last fall, found considerable awareness and concern among Britons regarding climate change.  Public opinion seems to be substantially driving the political debate there.  Climate change has become a hugely prominent issue among the U.K. parties.  They are fighting each other to be greener. This is fascinating and encouraging.  This article and this column from "The Economist" talk about it.  Would that our American political parties had a different dynamic.            



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change