BRUSSELS -- As millions worldwide celebrate World Environment Day on Saturday and reflect on how they can conserve the diversity of life on Earth, a Flash Eurobarometer survey finds more than 9 in 10 adults in the European Union agree that biodiversity loss is a very or fairly serious problem globally.
World Environment Day this year focuses on biodiversity as part of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, which the United Nations declared to draw attention to the rapid decline in species, ecosystems, and genetic heritage. Most experts agree that human activities such as expanding agriculture, infrastructure, and urbanization, pollution, and tourism contribute to the loss of the variety of species around the world.
While EU citizens are largely in agreement that biodiversity loss is a global problem, they are less likely to see it as a "very serious" problem for Europe or their own country. Opinions, however, vary greatly across the union: While a large majority in Portugal (72%) consider biodiversity loss a "very serious" problem for their country, a small minority in Finland (9%) share this view.
The European Union made a political commitment to stop biodiversity loss within the union by 2010, but the success of EU policies will likely depend on the willingness of individuals to act. A majority of EU citizens (70%) say they personally make an effort to protect biodiversity, and roughly half of these respondents say they would like to do more. Most of those who say they do not personally make efforts to protect biodiversity say it is because they do not know what to do.
Despite Europeans' generally high level of concern about biodiversity loss, they are far from unanimous in their knowledge of it. In most European countries, a majority have heard of the term "biodiversity," but only in Germany and Austria do a majority also know what the term means. Overall, 5% of Europeans say they feel "very well informed" about biodiversity and an additional 32% say they feel "well informed." With the exception of those surveyed in Germany, in all EU countries a majority say they feel "not well informed" or "not informed at all" about biodiversity.
Having adequate information appears to have a considerable effect on individuals' expressed willingness to act. Those who feel very well informed about biodiversity are much more likely to say they make an effort to protect it (86%); among those who feel not at all informed about biodiversity, this proportion is 58%.
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Results are based on the general population survey "Attitudes of Europeans Toward the Issue of biodiversity" (Flash Eurobarometer No. 290) conducted for the European Commission and the Directorate General Environment, Communication, and Governance Unit by Gallup Hungary. The survey's fieldwork was carried out Feb. 8-12, 2010. More than 27,000 randomly selected citizens, aged 15 years and older, were interviewed in the European Union's 27 member states. Each national sample is representative of the population aged 15 and older. Interviews were predominantly carried out via fixed telephone, approximately 1,000 in each of the member states. Statistical results were weighted to correct for known demographic discrepancies. The overall European statistics were weighted by population of EU member countries. The average margin of error is ±3.2 percentage points.
Read the full report written by Gallup Hungary on the European Commission website.