EUROPEANS believe the dangers of climate change represent a more serious problem than the current financial turmoil, according to a major new poll.

The Eurobarometer poll found the majority of the public in the European Union consider global warming to be one of the world’s most serious problems, with one-fifth saying it is the single most serious problem.

Overall, respondents said climate change was the second most serious issue facing the world, after poverty.

Connie Hedegaard, European climate commissioner, said: “This is encouraging news. The survey shows that the citizens of Europe can see that economic challenges are not the only ones we face. A clear majority of Europeans expect their politicians and business leaders to address the serious climate challenge now.”

She said it was “striking” that the public were even more concerned about climate change than in the run-up to the landmark Copenhagen summit on climate change in late 2009.

The number of people rating climate change as a very serious problem has risen slightly, from 64 per cent when the poll was last conducted in 2009, to 68 per cent this year. When asked to rank the seriousness of the problem, people put it at 7.4 out of 10, compared with a score of 7.1 out of 10 two years ago.

People also said there were economic benefits to tackling climate change, with eight out of 10 people saying that dealing with the problem would provide an economic boost and create jobs. Two years ago, the number was just under two-thirds.

There was also wide support for moving taxation to penalise greenhouse gas emissions and encourage energy efficiency, with an average of 68 per cent of people across the bloc in favour of such a move.

However, there was less enthusiasm for people taking personal responsibility for tackling climate change. Only one in five said they took personal responsibility, with more people saying it was for national governments, European Union authorities and businesses.

Despite this, most respondents said they had taken action to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the previous six months. But for the greatest number, that action was recycling household waste, which ranks fairly low on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The results of the Eurobarometer poll were hailed by the European Commission as evidence that the public across member states maintains its support for measures to tackle climate change. — The Guardian, London

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