Will the corona pandemic make environmental issues less relevant for Norwegians?

Blond manPhoto: Marvin Meyer / Unsplash
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Norwegians’ environmental concerns were at a record high in the 1980s but plummeted during the Yuppie crisis. Researchers are now interested in how the corona crisis will affect the climate issue.

Whether climate and environmental engagement “survives” the corona crisis will be one of the most interesting topics in connection with the election next autumn, election researchers believe.

Crises have taken a toll on environmental commitments before. 

In the 1980s, concerns about the environment were actually greater than today, and they were related to issues such as holes in the ozone layer, air pollution, deforestation, algae, and Chernobyl. 

But when the “Yuppie crisis,” with the extensive banking and housing market collapse, hit Norway from 1987 and beyond the 1990s, environmental concerns plummeted.

“It shows that times of crisis can challenge idealistic attitudes. Throughout the 1990s, we saw that the population’s attitudes became increasingly materialistic,” project manager for Norsk Monitor John Spilling of Ipsos told news bureau NTB.

Explosive environmental concerns

Ipsos’ survey Norsk Monitor, which has measured Norwegians’ attitudes and value orientations since 1985, shows how Norwegians’ concerns about nature and climate change have developed over time.

In 1989, as many as 61% thought drastic measures were necessary, and 3% thought it was already too late to do anything. 

But from 1991 onwards until the 2000s, concerns fell by a total of 35 percentage points, before the trend reversed again in 2003.

In recent decades, environmental concerns have increased again. 

While 26% of Norwegians thought the situation was serious and drastic measures were needed in 2001, the proportion had increased to 55% in 2019. 

At the time, a total of 4% stated that it was already too late and that the world is heading for a catastrophe, compared to 1% in 2001.

A “game-changer”

Election researcher and professor of political science Bernt Aardal says that researchers since the 1970s have observed that support for environmental issues has strikingly large fluctuations.

“What is interesting is whether the climate issue has now become a so-called ‘game-changer,’ so that one can no longer compare it with the fluctuations of earlier times. An argument in favor of that is that climate change is now so serious that you can no longer close your eyes to it,” Aardal said.

“At the same time, we know that when there are major immediate concerns, and people are worried about life and health and how to get food on the table, then there is not much room to think about long-term consequences. Therefore, I am unsure how this will turn out,” he added.

Green Party’s support falls

The climate barometer for autumn of 2020 also showed that climate engagement this autumn had weakened somewhat among young people under the age of 30, even though climate was still stated as the most important political issue in Norway. 

Meanwhile, unemployment has risen as a growing concern.

According to an average of the polls for the parliamentary elections in the last twelve months, support for the Green Party (MDG) has also fallen in the past year from 6.3% in November last year to 4.3% in November this year. 

In particular, the party has declined in the months with the greatest infection pressure, such as in April and the autumn months.

However, Green Party leader Une Bastholm is convinced that climate and commitment to climate issues will remain strong throughout the pandemic. 

She believes that climate and environmental challenges have now been given a completely different place in people’s consciousness than in the 1980s.

“I have been surprised at how important climate and environment are for voters even in the midst of a corona pandemic,” she pointed out.

Bastholm believes the pandemic may increase the possibility of a “green breakthrough” in the election because she believes the crisis has shifted the population’s perception of what is possible to implement in terms of political change.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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