Environmental enthusiasm fades

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UPDATED: Many Norwegians seem to be losing some of their enthusiasm for green living and pro-environmental measures, according to a new study. Another new survey shows that Norway ranks among the lowest of countries in Europe that are using alternative sources of renewable energy.

Norwegians don't seem as worried about the environment as they were a few years ago. PHOTO: Views and News

Only Turkey is worse than Norway in using alternative energy sources like wind power, bio-energy, solar energy and energy derived from waves and tides, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Figures from the international energy bureau (IEA) show that only 0.9 percent of new energy production in Norway comes from alternative sources.

Some environmental advocates claim that’s embarrassing for Norway’s so-called “red-green” government, but a state secretary in the Oil and Energy Ministry Sigrid Hjørnegård told NRK that Norway uses lots of clean and renewable energy, in the form of its hydroelectric power.

“These statistics don’t include water power,” she noted, adding that they should. Then Norway would come out much better, she claimed.

It’s perhaps not surprising that an oil- and gas nation like Norway, which for years also has generated electricity from its waterfalls, doesn’t invest more in windmills or bio-energy. Now it appears many Norwegians also are losing some of their personal passion for being environmentally friendly.

After several years of rising interest in environmental protection, a new study shows it started to fall last year, and activists keen to reverse climate change are worried. The study was conducted by TNS Gallup for the annual so-called Natur- and Miljøbarometeret (Nature and Environmental Barometer). It measures Norwegians’ attitudes on nature and environmental protection issues.

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported over the weekend that the amount of persons responding that they were “extremely interested” in environmental protection had risen every year from 2003 until more than 80 percent in 2008. Those saying they were “very or quite uninterested” had fallen to well under 20 percent by 2008.

Last year the trend changed. There was a decline, to less than 80 percent, in the number of Norwegians saying they were extremely interested in environmental protection, while those saying they were uninterested rose to more than 20 percent.

Signs started emerging last year, when another study suggested Norwegians were putting responsibility for emissions cuts on everyone but themselves. Results of last autumn’s national election, meanwhile, indicated that the political parties with the highest environmental profiles fared the worst at the ballot box.

Environmental activists think the general population has reached a saturation point regarding concern for the environment and climate, and that the gap between political rhetoric and actual environmentally friendly measures is too large.

All talk, not enough action
“When the contract between rhetoric and action is so big, I think people have difficulties taking it seriously,” Ola Skaalvik Elvevoldof, leader of the youth environmental group Natur og Ungdom, told Dagsavisen. Results from the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December were disappointing, he added, and heavy snowfalls and record low temperatures for the past two winters have raised doubts about global warming.

Others also think the finance crisis has made people more worried about job creation and boosted support for industry, at the expense of the environment.

One young man out walking around the popular lake Sognsvann admitted that he was more concerned about the environment two years ago than he is now. “I think there’s been so much focus on the climate that folks become immune,” Henrik Rachlew, age 26, told Dagsavisen. “And I believe more in actual campaigns and measures, than in scary warnings.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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