World concerns about climate change dwindle: survey

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - World concern about climate change has fallen in the past two years, according to an opinion poll on Sunday, the eve of 190-nation talks in Copenhagen meant to agree a U.N. deal to fight global warming.

The Nielsen/Oxford University survey showed that 37 percent of more than 27,000 Internet users in 54 countries said they were “very concerned” about climate change, down from 41 percent in a similar poll two years ago.

“Global concern for climate change cools off,” the Nielsen Co. said of the poll, taken in October. It linked the decline to the world economic slowdown.

In the United States, the number two emitter after China and the only industrialized nation outside the U.N.’s existing Kyoto Protocol for curbing emissions, the number of those very concerned fell to 25 percent from 34.

President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, and plans to join more than 100 world leaders in Copenhagen at the end of the December 7-18 meeting to try to reach a new U.N. deal.

China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, was among few nations surveyed where the number of people very concerned rose, to 36 from 30 percent.

The survey indicated the highest levels of concern were in Latin America and Asian-Pacific countries, topped by the Philippines on 78 percent which was struck by Typhoon Ketsana in September. The poll did not cover most of Africa.

Those least concerned by global warming, blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, were mainly in eastern Europe. Estonia was bottom with just 10 percent saying they were very concerned.

Jonathan Banks, Business Insights Director Europe of the Nielsen Co., said that worries about climate change may now be picking up with the focus on Copenhagen.

“Economic woes temporarily knocked the climate change issue off the top line agenda, but as the recession is now beginning to recede, we expect the Copenhagen summit to push this important issue to the front again,” he said.

Worldwide, air and water pollution followed by climate change were the top three environmental concerns for the world population, the survey found.

Editing by Matthew Jones