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Nielsen global survey finds concerns about climate change slipping behind concerns over other environmental issues; air and water pollution top worries, pesticide use #3

Other environmental concerns have pushed ahead of climate change on a global average basis. Source: Nielsen. Click to enlarge.

Concern about climate change/global warming among online consumers around the world took a back-seat to other environmental issues such as air and water pollution, water shortages, packaging waste and use of pesticides, according to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey of more than 25,000 Internet respondents in 51 countries.

The latest findings, which were compared to 2007 and 2009 results, show that while 69% of global online consumers say they are concerned about climate change/global warming (up from 66% in 2009, but down from 72% in 2007), concern for other environmental issues are taking a higher priority in the minds of consumers and are rising with greater intensity.

Three out of four global consumers rated air pollution (77%) and water pollution (75%) as top concerns, both increasing six percentage points compared to 2009. But the areas where concern is mounting fastest among 73% of global online consumers is worry over the use of pesticides, packaging waste and water shortages, with reported concern increasing 16, 14 and 13 percentage points, respectively.

There are many possible reasons for declines in concern about climate change/global warming. Focus on immediate worries such as job security, local school quality, crime and economic well-being have all diminished media attention for climate stories in the past two years. In the face of other pressing concerns, a public ‘caring capacity’ for climate change has been tested. Without continued attention paid to global warming/climate change in the media, such concerns may have faded from the collective public conscience.

—Dr. Maxwell T. Boykoff, Senior Visiting Research Associate, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Top environmental concerns among Asia Pacific consumers include water shortages and air pollution, while water pollution was the main concern for Latin Americans, Middle Eastern/Africans, Europeans and North Americans.

Climate change/global warming concerns falling in US, uneven in China, and rising in India. Source: Nielsen. Click to enlarge.

The USA recorded one of the steepest declines in concern about climate change/global warming among global markets over the four-year period from 2007 to 2011, dropping 14 percentage points. Today, less than half of Americans (48%) say they are concerned about climate change, which contrasts sharply with reported concern across the regions of the world: Latin America (90%), Middle East/Africa (80%), Asia Pacific (72%), and Europe (68%). Among the 21% of Americans who are decidedly not concerned, 63% indicated they believe natural variation—and not people—causes climate change/global warming.

During this period, Nielsen’s Global Online Consumer Confidence Survey found heightened American consumer concern around the economy, rising gas prices, and debt. With financial concerns still on the minds of many Americans, they’re indicating less and less concern about climate change and other environmental issues.

—Todd Hale, SVP Consumer & Shopper Insights, Nielsen US

In China, concern about climate change/global warming dropped 17% in the last two years from 77 percent in 2009 to 64% in 2011. Fully 86% of Indians are concerned about climate change, an increase of one percentage point compared to 2009.

The study found that there are a number of consumers who are either indifferent or not concerned about this issue. One-in-five global online consumers say they are neither concerned nor unconcerned about climate change/global warming and one-in-ten are not concerned at all. While half (48%) of unconcerned global online consumers cite “more urgent and serious matters in the world today” as the main reason for climate change apathy, 37% believe that climate change is not the result of human behavior and 23% believe future technologies will solve the problem.

Globally, Latin Americans remain the most concerned about climate change/global warming, at 90% up from 85% in 2009, while Middle East/Africa consumers posted the highest increase regionally as concern grew from 69 to 80% in the two year span.

Latin America has experienced a number of distressing and impactful environmental events over the last several years, and the region’s consumers are increasingly attributing these events to broad climate change. People are expressing clear concern about unusual weather patterns including increased rainfall, hurricanes, and floods in some parts of Latin America, and severe droughts in others.

—Arturo García, President, Nielsen Latin America

As for the sharp rise in concern in the Middle East/Africa:

The hot and dry climates in many Middle Eastern and African countries and the widely held perception that temperatures are rising every summer has likely led to an increased concern about climate change and weather variation.

—Ram Mohan Rao, Managing Director, Nielsen Egypt

Climate change/global warming concern increased 10 points in Europe to 68% , fell three points in Asia Pacific to 72% , and North America was the least concerned region with a two point decline to 50%. Global increase for climate change concern was driven largely by Middle East/Africa markets where awareness rose significantly in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel, and remained high in South Africa.

Thailand, Mexico, and Portugal were the world’s most concerned countries about climate change, with 93% of respondents from each market indicating concern. Portugal and Mexico were also the world’s most concerned countries about water shortages and air and water pollution.

In Portugal, severe weather patterns of extreme and uncharacteristic heat waves in the summer and snow in the winter over the past few years have heightened consumer concern and awareness over global warming and climate change issues, said Luís Bio, Marketing Director, Nielsen Portugal. In Mexico, as in the rest of Latin America, the media has been an influential force in raising awareness about the environment, with extensive coverage of environmental issues, said Paola Fonseca, Strategy and Innovation VP, Nielsen Latin America, who also noted that, having recognized vast consumer concern, manufacturers, retailers and service companies are increasingly implementing environmentally-friendly social responsibility programs.

Overall, 83% of global online consumers say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, but only 22% say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product. Willingness to pay extra for environmentally-friendly goods is highest in the Middle East/Africa, where one-third of consumers are willing and lowest in North America, where only 12% of both Canadians and Americans say they will pay extra for eco-friendly products. Many consumers reported a personal preference for eco-friendly goods, but large percentages of respondents report setting aside this preference and buying whichever product is cheapest, including 48% in North America, 36% in Middle East/Africa, 35% in Europe, 33% in Asia Pacific, and 27% in Latin America.

Unwillingness to pay more for eco-friendly product. Source: Nielsen. Click to enlarge.

Global consumers have mixed feelings about the environmental impact and benefits of particular sustainable practices. While 64% of consumers, globally, indicated they believe organic products are good for the environment, there is wide regional disparity of opinion. Eighty percent of Latin Americans and 72% of Asia Pacific respondents think organic products are environmentally-friendly, but fewer people are convinced in Europe (58%), Middle East/Africa (57%), and North America (49%).

Among other environmental and sustainability efforts manufacturers have taken, recycled packaging and energy efficient products are seen as the most broadly helpful. Fully 83% believe that manufacturers using recycled packaging and producing energy efficient products and appliances have a positive impact on the environment. Fewer consumers are convinced of the positive environmental impact of local products (59%), fair trade products (51%) and products not tested on animals (44%). Belief in the positive impact of “local” products is highest in North America, where 65% of consumers reported believing local goods have a positive impact on the environment.

The Nielsen Global Online Environmental Survey was conducted between 23 March and 12 April 2011 and polled more than 25,000 consumers in 51 countries throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Online Survey, which includes the Global Online Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.



Overall, 83% of global online consumers say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, but only 22% say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product

Really depressing. If only 22% say they are willing to pay more, you bet that when it comes to making the actual decision, even less people will choose the more environmentally friendly product.

i.o.w: "Don't bother me, just solve the friggin' problem"

I wonder: if people are more concerned over water shortages than climate change, do they realise that climate change is actually the main threat to a reliable water supply becasue of changing precipitation patterns and receding glaciers? There is still a lot of education to do.


The politicization of AGW by the left wing has backfired in the US.. after all, Liberalism is still considered a dirty word in the States, thank God!

The rest of the world is still drinking the Doom&Gloom Koolaid, but at least they are not willing to pay for it..

Morris Meyer

Go back to your cave Herm. The US just broke records for damages from weather disasters, and the heat records in the US keep outweighing the cold records by a significant margin.

That you ascribe a political motive to addressing one of the most significant challenges we face shows how bankrupt your ideology is.

Please turn off your mind and go back to watching FOX News, you thoughtless dolt.


Over 75% are concerned with all types of pollution, that is a very high penetration level.

The other 22% to 25%...well...most of them will always feel that way and will never see the problems for 1001 reasons. Should we really spend too much efforts on that small misguided minority with their eyes wide shut?


Hurricane Lost Steam as Experts Misjudged Structure and Next Move - New York Times 8/28/2011

The climate change campaign has failed and only the prideful and obdurate refuse to admit it. But there is increasing positive action around the Energy Independence campaign. And new approaches like Breakthrough's "Climate Pragmatism" suggest the inclusive direction.

Further delay and clinging to past hope that climate would galvanize the planet, is fruitless. The polls show the mindset direction and before the entire charade becomes a... charade, it's time to change course.

Else increasing numbers around the world will view our obsession with gloom and doom:


The mis-programmed 22% may never change their brain washed closed mind but their children and grand children will. There is hope for the future.


The funny thing about this controversy/ conflict/ standoff is that both sides will claim limited victory in 20-30 years because the natural evolution of technology and cost-reductions will provide low-energy, low-pollution, improved standards in all aspects of car, building, and infrastructure sectors anyway. By association, carbon intensity and imports from questionable regimes will have dropped all along with these improvements. Because energy will be less cost volatile, standards of living will have increased sharper than those times when we were subject to carbon fuel spikes. Nothing extraordinary will have caused this. There will be no successful climate change crusade (as in lifestyle clawback) or withdraw of suburban sprawl or change in median house size or change in miles travelled adjusted for population or car size proportions or drop in percentage of meat intake or spike in transit use. Electrical vehicle adoption will be no more (melo)dramatic than carburetor or lead-content change 20-30+ years ago. Any increased intensity in weather concerns, water availability volatility, changes in sea levels or wildlife biodiversity will be met with the same yawns and disinterest as they always have when compared to politics, current events, and living routine issues. Large infrastructure projects will occasionally be implemented as needed and as they always were, such as the everglades clean-up etc. Perhaps increased zoning and mild regulation, people naturally moving and adapting will continue to overcome all long-term changes that may have been predicted or forecast with little real disruption. Any significant 'climate change' suffering elsewhere in the world will be no different than the regular famines, wars, crusades, epidemics, outbreaks, and other circumstances that typically affect cultures without access to technology or infrastructure. Ho-hum the drama continues. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


If AGW turns out to be real, then the left did harm to humanity by politicizing it. Unintended consequences and all that.

Roger Pham

Hi Anne,
I share your's depressing when a large number of people in the world fail to put 2's and 2's together to see the whole pictures: water shortage aggravated by global warming, and steep rise in CO2 leve associated with global warming...famine, poverty, lost of low-lying lands aggravated by global warming...etc. To us, it's very obvious!

However, I also observe a steep increase in global unemployment rates. In many countries, the unemployment rates run from 20-50 %, or even higher. Unemployment in Ireand is now 15%, Greece 17%, and Spain 21%...In the USA, unemployment is listed at 9.2%, but anyone with contact with reality knows that this number is a grossly low, since it only counts those who are now actively looking for work, and not those who are chronically unemployed and have quit looking.
Environmentalism is labor-intensive and hence more costly.

But, by putting 2 and 2 together, (environmentalism and rising unemployment rates world wide), linking environmentalism to job creation effort, perhaps a lot more political capital can be gained to bring forth more environmental projects to achieve dual or triple or quadruple gains for the same effort.

This should require no extra governmental expenditure. Simply making income tax more progressive while creating a tax shelter for private investment in environmental projects, such as renewable energy deployment, recycling, etc,. In conjunction, the gov. should ensure a gradual rise in the cost of fossil fuels and making pollution more costly, and putting tariffs on imported products from countries with low environmental standards. Predictaby, job growth will ensue when new green-energy factories will be open and new projects will be started. Tax base will increase with job growth and will solve the gov. budget deficit problem. Social stability and increase in living standards will ensue.


This is not a surprising development. When jerks like Al Gore compare global warming skeptics to racists what do you expect.

Check it out at:


Are there any glaciers left in Glacier National Park? Seeing them is on my bucket list.

I think economics is largely about people doing what they want to do, although heavily influenced by free-market style advertising. We need leaders who can motivate people to save the environment. No amount of monetary investment can replace the idealism represented in the concept of environmentalism. People have to believe that it is important.

With Perry, Palin, Bachman, and the anti-science G.O.P. platform, there is a good chance that our next President will believe the earth is only 6,000 years old. That kind of leader can never motivate us to save the planet from the obvious problems we face.

Roger Pham

To explain the finding of this Nielsen Global survey in term of human psychology, it seems predictable that people tend to assign higher priority to issues of immediate or short-term consequences first, and then worry about longer-term problem like Global Warming or Environmental Preservation later.
This explains why so many governments and so many people are in heavy debts...borrow today, get elected today, enjoy life today first...worry about paying the debts plus huge interests on the debts later.

Instant gratification ranks way above delayed gratification. It takes a very high level of thinking to be able to think about long-term global issues or societal issues on top of immediate gratification.

However, the joblessness will affect everyone. Even for those who have jobs, their job security will be threatened. They will be less valued and may have to work longer hours for less pay or benefits, since labor will be cheaper and human labor will have less value.

Even those who are self-employed or are very rich without job security problem can still be affected by increasing joblessness. This has to do with increasing crimes, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, carjacking, legal extortion or other white-collar crimes, corruption at all levels, and a whole host of other social ills when society deteriorates. Just look at what's happening south of USA's border and elsewhere in the third world!

Roger Pham

For the above reason that I propose that we link job creation to environmentalism. Joblessness is an immediate problem that needs immediate attention...that we can use environmentalism as a job creation engine.


Is job creation a lost goal in future USA? Some 70% of the current US/GNP is based on the purchase of goods, mainly from China. If this type of negative growth was extracted from GNP calculations, USA's growth would be highly negative month after month and year after year for the last 10+ years.

Automation and imports from lower labor cost countries will make local job creation almost impossible to achieve unless the economy is redirected towards local job creation avenues such as:

a. repairing existing infrastructures and building new ones.
b. manufacturing and installing Solar and Wind power plants.
c. installing new DC underground power grid networks
d. electrifying 100 million gas guzzlers and trains.
e. nationwide home and commercial buildings energy efficiency program.
f. other programs to reduce oil importation and create local jobs.


Harvey and Roger both have good ideas. But keep in mind history of the climate campaign and enlisting the necessary political support to execute the plan. This CANNOT be done under the Green or Environmental banner. Too much conflict and blowback and political damage (ahem, Algore!)

IF, however, the jobs creation program is pitched in a way that addresses perceived threats (national security), economic crisis ($450B annual foreign oil purchases) and JOBS, JOBS JOBS... you can enlist both sides of the aisle.

The JOBS programs center around Energy Independence - lowering our consumption of foreign fossil fuel. We do this by replacing the old grid with a portfolio of new energy producing technologies: NG, new nuke (thorium), solar/PV, wind, geotherm, tidal, biofuels, etc., AND introducing a major 30 year program to implement DISTRIBUTED ENERGY in residence and light industry.

This means MANUFACTURING is reawakened in North America to manufacture original equipment for CHP appliances, CCHP industrial systems, waste to energy conversion plants, solar farms, EV/PHEV auto equipment, etc. DOE is doing a decent job of this already - albeit under the unfortunate rubric of "climate change." This must change.

Centralized power production and distribution was good for Edison's day - it's a different world and we know how to make energy in-situ, locally, far more efficiently and at far less enviro impact. We all know this - now we must accept it. Centralized energy production and distribution is a century old, outdated model, and it's time to take the next step.

To implement the JOBS program we must make one relatively minor adjustment to our campaign - rename it Energy Independence. IT IS NOT A CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAM. Period. Left, right, angels and trolls need to grok, THIS is the common ground. Put pride and ego aside, hitch up the belt, and get to work on Energy Independence.

PS: you get ALL the green, climate, enviro benefits this way.


Unfortunately, Obama's general incompetence when it comes to jobs, energy, and the economy has probably doomed the chances of the federal government having any meaningful role to play anytime soon in this.

So if we're talking decentralization, why not decentralize the project as well? Get the states to take the lead - some of the more competent and less hidebound states (I'm thinking Texas) could probably make some real progress. And with fifty states trying different approaches surely at least a handful will be successful - better odds than letting the feds run the show.


Actually, DOE and Ag are both doing a pretty good job of getting funds to green alternative energy R&D. DOT is helping implement EV infrastructure. Obama is the best friend of alternatives having helped Detroit save their auto industry and piloting the Chevy Volt - which pushed Nissan to build the Leaf and now a dozen PHEV/EV products from around the world.

But surely the States should take a lead as well. T Boone wanted to build the world's largest wind farm in Texas. They don't need that now - but developing natural gas as the fuel for CHP appliances in residential homes - would be a way to lower demand for coal fired power immediately.

And to start replacing aging high voltage transmission towers with local, micro-grids for community backup and UPS services.


"JOBS, JOBS JOBS,... The JOBS programs center around Energy Independence "

What good is creating jobs if they are given to legal immigrants - 75,000 new workers each month being imported by the White House. How do you achieve energy independence when we increase the population of energy users by 75,000 each month?

I used to be in favor of energy conservation until I realized it's only purpose is to encourage population increase, which fuels the greed of big business with workers and consumers of their poducts.

Roger Pham

I agree with your promotion of Energy Independence, and in combination with a concerted job creation program, I'm sure that it will create a lot of political traction. Conveniently, campaign season for 2012 election is now in full swing. We must find ways to get the message out for the all candidates of all respective parties so that actions will be taken as soon as possible.

Keep in mind, though, Energy Independence promotion will need the following essential actions from the Federal government:
1) Guarantee a gradual rise in the price of imported fossil fuels, or highly polluting fossil fuels, on order of 7% yearly
2) Institute gradually rising tariffs, up to a point, on all imported goods made in countries that have unfair cost advantage such gov. subsidies and/or low environmental and worker protection order to provide a level playing field for our recovering manufacturing sector.
3) Tax shelter for Private Investments in all Energy Independence-related projects...
4) To make this tax shelter revenue neutral (to avoid further budget deficit), gradually roll back the Bush's tax cut until Clinton's era tax rates will be reached.
5) Raise public awareness of the issues and what is at stake to raise more political capital.

Don't worry about the legal immigration. Many Americans yearly have found jobs abroad and are working overseas to balance out the legal immigration. Our business and industry need certain type of skills or talents from all over the world that we do not produce in enough number. We should focus first on illegal immigration...

To address the population increase as we all should be concerned about, we will need to institute selective birth control policy. How about restricting welfare support for ONE CHILD per family only? Adopt a One Child per Welfare Family policy! Mandatory birth control on all female welfare recipients by the use of IUD's that can be electronically tagged and verified when they go to pick up the welfare check.

China's One-child policy is too draconian for American's taste. However, what China has achieved is a proportional increase in the gene pool of highly capable people. This is done by allowing those who want to have more than one child to pay the gov. a large sum of money that only the wealthy (capable) can afford...Having a larger family is now the status symbol in China...the end result is that there will be higher proportion of capable people in the population to manage business and to create wealth, while the welfare roll will be more and more reduced. This is the way to prepare for the high-tech future and to reduce future unemployment problem, when higher skills and intelligence will be needed, while low-skilled works will be increasingly robotized.


Roger, welfare recipients don't go to welfare offices every month. They don't even get paper checks. Their EBT cards are re-filled electronically, which saves millions in processing costs... and makes fraud easier than ever.

Herm, you've got the wrong culprit. ACC was politicized by the right, specifically the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, and the George C. Marshall Institute. See Naomi Oreske's talk on the history of ACC research and politics.


Legal immigration adds about 1,000,000 to US population each year and is the highest level in history. When you include chain-migration, and high-birth rates among immigrants, you have a very significant increase in population. It is something to worry about. Traditionally, meaning before 1995, legal immigration was limited to about 250,000. Then big business lobbied the government because they claimed there was a shortage of workers. It was only a shortage only for them because they benefit directly from growing, while the rest of us have seen declining personal incomes after inflation.

Birth rates among immigrants are more then double those of native-born residents. The Census evidence shows that immigration is responsible for about 75% of population growth. Even if you consider illegal aliens, 1,000,000 legal immigrants is a big deal and something to worry about.

One child per family won't work here for the next fifty years if ever. however, I support eliminating the child tax credit. Why should I be required to pay for somebody else's big family? But, legal immigration is a policy that can be changed more easily, with several bills already in congress, and would have a big impact on resource demand and pollution. If our population could be stabilized, energy conservation might improve our lives instead of just allowing more people to crowd into a fixed amount of space.

Roger Pham

Thanks, Zhukova, for the info.
We can expect even more immigration from people in tropical areas who will be displaced due to rising sea level or destruction of their habitats due to climate change!


"even more immigration ... due to climate change!"

Not if we don't allow them. In the 1970s, population stabilization achieved for a while. It was accepted as a national goal to assure a future supply of resources, to save wildlife from being exterminated, and to make environmental pollution manageble. Many Americans chose to limit their family size for the benefit of the country. Nobody does that anymore. With current immigration policy, the country's population will soar to 450 billion by 2050. Jobs will be a minor issue at that point! Immigration policy is the only reason I would vote republican, although I'm not sure I could trust them if they take the WH.


Oh the humanity...!! Zhuk... try 450 Million. Middle classes ALWAYS lower the birth rate cause they can't afford to send multiple kids to college. Doh! The whole reason for floating China into a middle class nation is to halt / lower population growth. Don't you guys read the Lumination News??

BTW, FYI, there is an abundance of everything in the universe. i.e. plenty for everyone. If this was the predominate message today - the instance of selfish, fearful behavior would change.

But then, y'all the teacher;)

Roger Pham

Good point, Reel$$, the birth rates for the middle class and upper class are already in the sustainable range. WE will need to work on more birth control for the lower class and welfare class. The solution can be real simple: The gov. will offer economic supports for those in needs in exchange for them staying on birth control. If the population of those in need of helps is kept low enough, the situation will be sustainable.

The poors have a subsconcious desire to have a large family in order for mutual support. Those who are chronically on welfare, one generation after the next, desire to have more kids to collect more welfare support. Heck, their kids will receive all kinds of freebees such as free health care, free dental care, free education, free school lunch, head start, etc. why should they desire to limit their family size, when they're not working, hence having all day to play with their kid?
Solution: One Child per Welfare Family policy. Support only up to One Child for those on welfare. Those working poors who may have to go in and out of welfare will be more careful not to have more than one child. Require Welfare recipient to stay on birth control in order to pick up the welfare check or before receiving any kind of financial support.

There is an abundance of everything in the Universe, but we can't get there yet. May be after many centuries long into the future, we will develope means to colonize the Moon or Mars.

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