North/South divisions in perceptions on climate change

The Pew Research Center has the results of a recent poll on what people around the world are concerned about.  Some points that stood out to me:

  • “A median of 61% of Latin Americans say they are very concerned about climate change, the highest share of any region.”
  • “Sub-Saharan Africans also voice substantial concerns about climate change. A median of 59% say they are very concerned”
  • “Concern about climate change is relatively low in Europe. While a median of 42% report being very concerned, global climate change is not one of the top two threats in any European country surveyed.”
  • Climate change is the top concern for Chinese people that were surveyed; but only 19% said that they were very concerned (implying that people in China aren’t terribly concerned about any of the issues?)

What’s generally the most interesting to me is the North/South divide on what people are concerned about.  Check out the map that Pew offers:

Pew July 2015 Concern Map

Seems like the people who live in countries or regions that are the most responsible for climate change are also the ones who don’t really care about climate change; and the people who are the least responsible for climate change are the ones who are the most worried about climate change.

This certainly provokes some thought about the nature of capitalism and the way it processes information about externalities and limits.  Does the present wealth that comes from the exploitation of carbon energy and the export of ecological externalities to the future create a psychological buffer for those economies, who increasingly are 1) able to incrementally divert their accrued wealth to adapt to climate change, and 2) unwilling to compromise present systems of production and distribution?

But in general, it seems horribly clear that information about climate change and its threat to human civilization is simply not able to permeate capitalism and its institutions, and trigger any kind of feedback response; hence, why those that are on the peripheries are the ones who are most concerned, while those in the core are happy to continue business as usual.


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