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Waiting for a Signal: Public Attitudes Toward Global Warming, the Environment and Geophysical Research

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Publication Date: April 1999

Publisher(s): Public Agenda Foundation

Author(s): John Immerwahr

Topic: Environment (Ecology)


A review of public opinion finds that concern about environmental issues has fallen, driven not by apathy but by frustration over invisible, long-term problems like global warming.
Attitudes toward environmental topics (a major interest to geophysicists) have been remarkably fluid in the last several decades. Sometime back in the 1970s, the public exhibited a growing consciousness of the importance of the environment, of the concern about non-replenishable resources, and of the fragility of the ecosystem. Thereafter, a certain level of environmental consciousness became the cultural norm. In a recent survey, Wirthlin Worldwide found that many Americans list themselves as either sympathetic to environmental concerns (57%) or as active environmentalists (12%). A mere 3% list themselves as unsympathetic to environmental concerns.

Although awareness and sensitivity to environmental issues continue to be widespread, concern about the environment has typically ranked behind other issues the public finds more pressing, such as education, the economy and crime. What is even more striking, however, is that, of late, the intensity of concern about the environment has diminished. Chart 2 documents a significant drop in concern about a wide range of environmental issues.


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