Poll suggests in Europe Anti-Climate Hype may be Over: 9/10 See 'Serious Problem'

11/10/2011 15:40 BST | Updated 10/12/2011 10:12 GMT

After bubbles and bursts, trends remain. That's what goes for climate science at least, so why wouldn't it apply to the social response to climate change? A special European Commission poll shows general concern about climate change is again increasing and a majority thinks the climate crisis is 'more important' than the current financial turmoil and forecast double-dip recession.

Who would have expected that for an outcome? History moves so fast when you are right in the middle of it.

In 2007 there was The Climate Hype. The IPCC had just released its Fourth Assessment Report for which it won its Nobel Prize in Physics for Peace and Gore had his Inconvenient Truth out, quite conveniently placed after Katrina. [Ironic of course: America didn't listen to James Hansen's scientific arguments in Congress in 1980 - but a full-blown hurricane along the Gulf of Mexico accidentally hitting an unfortunately placed city (really nothing odd or especially greenhouse gas-related about that) suddenly made people want to switch churches en masse.]

Of course we had a much better climatological reason to be impressed, silenced, concerned when on top of that all the NSIDC showed us the Arctic melting record of 16 September 2007 - when suddenly 39 per cent of the polar sea ice was gone.

By that time even big companies thought it wise to include some 'climate' in their marketing expenses. Then in December, just before 2007 came to an end, there was Bali - the big stepping stone UN climate summit, roadmap to Copenhagen. The world looked very willing to work towards a big new treaty, but could 'not yet' decide on exactly which emission targets (for the year 2020), or whether these would have to be binding.

Alarm bells were ringing, but no one heard them. Christmas time it was - let's hope for some snow and forget all worries.

Within two years came The Anti-Climate Hype - fired on by an army of skeptics and a saddening science-deprived media 'debate' - in which non-climatologists were allowed equal amounts of airtime to 'explain' how Earth's atmosphere worked - and how the greenhouse hypothesis was a big conspiracy to steal your tax money.

Still on the 12th of December of 2009 on the streets of Copenhagen 100,000 people had assembled from all over the world - more than ever before for any environmental issue. It wasn't enough. The 100,000 were no match for geopolitics, for nihilism, for a system that had always survived through gambling, never through long-term planning.

Now again it's two more years. These days the only significant climate events take place outdoors, in the physical world, like the 2010 global temperature record and the 2011 Arctic melting record, reached on September 8. UN negotiations anyone treats with cynicism, an ambitious treaty halting the rise of atmospheric CO2 no one expects anymore.

And then suddenly the European Commission thought it interesting to do a big survey in all EU member states, asking civilians about their true concerns, their relative concerns, amidst a double-dip economic recession.

Frankly I'm a bit stunned. To what extent is climate scepticism psychology one wonders - and which is the magic (moral?) question to make it disappear? According to the large survey by the European Committee (PDF) in all EU Member States just one out of ten European citizens does not see climate change as 'serious problem' [89% think it is].

About two thirds [68%] of respondents consider climate change 'a very serious problem' and 20% of Europeans think climate change is the single most serious problem on our planet.

Only the category of 'poverty, hunger & lack of drinking water' scores higher on the list. Perhaps most remarkable is that concerns for the current economic downturn are of a lesser degree.

Within Europe rather large differences arose between the different Member States. For instance in Spain, Germany and Sweden people seem extra concerned, whereas Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Greece seem a little preoccupied.

It's not the end of the good news story. According to the EC poll, Europeans are not just concerned, they are also remarkably optimistic, expecting a climate-friendly, low-carbon economy within 40 years.

A majority thinks tackling climate change is mainly the responsibility of national governments, the EU and business - and to make sense of such a top-down approach see little harm in carbon taxation - and more economic chances arising from climate policy, than economic damage.

But are we really that green? Is your neighbour equally concerned?

I'd love to take a look at the questions - if only to create some further good news. Because true or false, these are stats we can build on.