For those of us dealing with climate change and environmental issues in the Middle East, it can feel like the region is constantly playing catch-up to the rest of the developed world. Despite the Middle East’s growing environmental movement and important green groups in countries from Jordan to Iran, we still look to the high-status green campaigns and campaigners of America and Europe for inspiration.
However, a recent survey has found that whilst less than half (48%) of all Americans are concerned about global warming, around 80% of citizens in Africa and the Middle East worry about climate change. So in one aspect at least, the Middle East is leading the way.
According to the survey by Nielsen, 69% of citizens in 51 nations are worried about climate change- a healthy figure which has remained constant over the last four years. Climate scepticism thankfully still represents a small minority at 10% but there are some worrying trends in the rich, developed nations. Whilst global warming concern in the Middle East is growing, in America the number of citizens worried about global warming has fallen by a huge 14% to just 48% over the last four years.
Troubling Trends In Rich Nations
In Europe things look better with concern about climate change rising to 68% from 58% back in 2009. However the lack of concern from citizens in rich and polluting nations such as Norway, New Zealand, Estonia and the Netherlands (where in every case, only half or less of the population is concerned about global warming) is worrying. As Damian Carrington, the environment editor of the UK’s Guardian puts is so well: “The bad news is that in many of the nations with the biggest carbon footprints – US, UK and Australia (per capita) and China (total emissions) – plenty of people seem to think that climate change is a problem that can be dealt with another day.”
Latin America, Africa and Middle East Lead The Way
Latin America, which boasts climate trailblazers such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales, topped the world charts with 90% stating that global warming concerned them. Africa and the Middle East came in second at 80% and nations such as Turkey stood out with a whopping 92% of citizens there remarking that they were concerned with climate change.
Indeed all of the Middle Eastern nations surveyed including Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia scored higher than the global average of 69%. See here for a detailed graph of the survey’s findings. Ram Mohan Rao, the managing director at Neilsen Egypt, attributed the rising concern with climate change in Africa and the Middle East to the widely-held perception that temperatures are rising every summer and causing weather variation.
Time For Concern To Translate Into Action & Policy
If the assessment of climate change concern is accurate, this does raises the question of why there is still very limited action being taken on the ground in the Middle East. At a time of growing political change marked by the revolutionary Arab Spring, why aren’t more political organisations and civil organisations addressing the real and rising fears over climate change?
: Image via Tony Puyol/flickr.
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