Those who doubt the earth's climate is changing are a diminishing breed in Europe, according to a new survey released Friday. It shows large majorities in the European Union see climate change as a very serious problem – and fighting it as an opportunity to create jobs and boost the economy.
Overall, EU residents see climate change as the second most serious problem facing the world, after poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water, which were taken together as a single issue.
The EU's climate change commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, called the survey encouraging.
"It's a rather strong call from European citizens to their political leaders. ... The people of Europe are really concerned about climate change. They see strong economic opportunities in tackling the challenge, and they expect us to continue to take ambitious and concrete action," Hedegaard said.
And, in what was likely an oblique reference to the U.S., she said, "Considering that in some countries there is still this debate whether climate change is happening at all, it is really reassuring to see that the European public understands the gravity of the climate challenge."
The survey showed that 68 percent of the people in the European Union consider climate change a "very serious problem," up from 64 percent in 2009. All told, 89 percent of Europeans consider the problem either "very serious" or "fairly serious."
And the poll found that an overwhelming 78 percent of EU citizens said fighting climate change could help create jobs and help the economy, up from 63 percent two years ago. The proportion of people who believed that was over two-thirds in every one of the 27 EU countries.
Sixty-eight percent of those interviewed supported basing taxation to a greater extent on energy use. Hedegaard said that should show politicians they have support for green taxation – "relatively more on what we burn, relatively less what we earn."
The survey was conducted in June by a consortium called TNS Opinion & Social at the request of the European Commission. Nearly 27,000 people were interviewed in person, in all the EU countries. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percent.