Austrians Believe Global Warming

90% Willing to Change Habits

News | Lucas Jakobsson | December 2006 / January 2007

The Viennese are convinced that the problem of global warming is already "serious," a recent survey conducted by The Vienna Review revealed.  A full 78% agreed that this was a problem "now," and no longer something "we will have to worry about in the next 5-10 years," and over a third of those (39%) think the situation already constitutes "a crisis."

The survey of 50 respondents was conducted Dec.1-4 in Vienna’s 1st and 9th Districts. Half of those surveyed were interviewed orally, soliciting detailed responses to the written questionnaire.

A full 74% of those surveyed felt that the alleged connection between global warming and the current weather conditions were real, confirming the rapidly escalating concern of the general public in Europe about climate change in the wake of increasingly violent storms and the high autumn temperatures in Central Europe.

"We have to take this seriously," said one man, "and not always be thinking about the economy first."

Recommendations were numerous of what could be cone about it, suggesting most had been putting a lot of thought to the question.

"Raise the prices of the highway toll stickers (Vignette), and increase the prices of gasoline," a particularly outspoken citizen told The Vienna Review, while another added, "if companies want to pollute, have them pay a license fee."

Most felt that governments were doing far too little to address the problem. Almost two-thirds of the people agreed that the international community generally was not concerned enough and called for the larger nations like the U.S. and China to set an example by enforcing global treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol.

Austria came out with a somewhat higher score, with nearly a quarter agreeing that the government was already addressing climate concerns "in a meaningful way."  But nearly two-thirds, 64%, felt they should be doing more.

However many were poorly informed and a full 32% did not really know anything about Austria’s position on the issue of climate change, and 20% did not really know what the international community was doing.

There were some who felt it was simply too much trouble. A man rushing home from work said that although he tries to help the planet by using less energy, if it is too much of an inconvenience, he would be reluctant to do so.

However such response was rare and nearly everybody was willing to make personal sacrifices. Nine out of 10 people interviewed said that they were willing to change their lifestyles to live a more environmentally friendly life, and half of those said they were already doing so.

"I always ride my bike" one interviewee reported. "I have already switched my light bulbs to low energy ones, I always travel by train, I never leave my TV on standby and I always turn everything off that I don’t use."

But there is always more to do, and many people had suggestions.  A Dutch ex-pat in Vienna found Austrians very environmentally conscious, and believes that if the government would advertise encouraging people to do more, people would respond.

A young and outspoken man in his early twenties said he wanted to see a "worldwide pollution free day… and a car free day," just like international days of anti-smoking, anti-drugs and AIDS. In fact, Vienna already has a "car-free day," an initiative of the environmental organization Südwind, and supported by the Austrian Green Party and Greenpeace this year held on Sept 22, however it was not directly endorsed by the city or national government. Another citizen suggested expanding public transportation in America.

Others pointed to the associated costs of global trade as an unaffordable luxury.

"It is a disgrace, that a country such as Austria with agricultural capabilities such as we have, should import vegetables from South America and rice from Asia," an elderly woman commented. "Brussels is not doing enough to protect farmers in the European Union. I think that the best thing we can do is to support local industries who do not require transportation routes around half the world."

All in all, the most frequent recommendation was the need for further investment into alternative energy and renewable fuels, that people refrain from using power irresponsibly, and that as much as possible, air travel be discouraged.

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