In the fourth edition of the so-called Climate Barometer, which CONCITO publishes in collaboration with the opinion-research institute interresearch a/s, there is evidence of significant changes in the attitude of Danes towards climate change, compared to the previous survey from four months ago. In October of 2010, 75% of respondents agreed wholly or partially that the average global temperature is rising. This number had dropped to 68% in February of 2011. In the Climate Barometer from June 2010, 23% of Danes considered the climate the single-most concerning political issue, but that number has dropped to only 16% in the new survey.
CONCITO’s chairman, Martin Lidegaard, has no doubts about the cause:
“While one natural disaster after another flickers across the TV screen, and the price of oil, coal, and food has risen explosively in part as a result of climate change, climate itself has become something of a four-letter word in Danish politics. After COP15, Danish politicians are afraid to even whisper the word.”
According to CONCITO, the most recent example is the government’s proposal, which, while a welcome effort, makes virtually no mention of the climate, focusing instead on energy security and independence from fossil fuels. Nor did the most recent growth proposal from the business community mention the climate or the environment even once.
“Even though they generally have the best interests of the climate in mind, it is a common perception among politicians and other central players that the issue doesn’t attract a lot of voters. So their strategy is to highlight economic issues and energy security as the most important arguments in favor of making the necessary adjustments.”
According to the think tank, this is a dangerous tendency. While there are sound economic arguments in favor of sustainable societal adjustments, convincing the general public of the necessary alacrity and depth of these adjustments – not least with regard to their own consumption and behavior – will be all the more difficult if they are unaware of the actual state of the climate. Also, the climate is still one of the issues which concern Danes the most, surpassed only by the financial crisis and fear of unemployment, and roughly half of Danes do not believe that their political party is doing enough to respond to climate change.
“It simply is not true that climate issues do not attract voters. Just look at Germany and Sweden, where green parties are charging forward. But even if it were true, politicians still have a responsibility as communicators of the problems we face. Their voice is crucial to the public debate. They are the ones setting the political agenda to which voters respond. This makes it doubly sad that the climate is unlikely to get much attention in the run-up to the coming election.”
CONCITO thus believes that current price increases, and the expenses of individual homeowners relating to climate adaptation, may well have more of an impact on Danish real wages than early retirement schemes and property taxes combined.
Martin Lidegaard, Chairman of the Board, (+45) 2989 6700